Irish investors 'doing better in France than Chinese' - minister
Irish companies have invested more in France than Chinese firms, the French foreign minister has said.
Jean-Marc Ayrault said that France's business environment is one of the most trade and investment friendly, and one of the most open.
He told exporters at a gathering in Dublin that the stock of Irish investments in France, at €5bn, is larger than China's, with almost 300 Irish companies there employing more than 20,000 people.
"It is larger than the Chinese investment stocks in France. So the Irish are doing better than the Chinese," the minister said.
The largest Irish firms in France include CRH, Smurfit Kappa, ABP Food Group, DCC and Glen Dimplex.
"Each one of those companies have several thousand staff and sometimes dozens of sites on the French territory," he told the Irish Exporters' Association.
"But there are more and more Irish small and medium enterprises who are choosing France because they are then able to more easily penetrate this vast market, or because they wish to get closer to the larger French companies with whom they manage to sign strategic contracts."
Mr Ayrault later told the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) that the Brexit negotiations need to be rational and coherent, but without punishment.
"It is in no one's interests to start in an aggressive atmosphere," he said.
"That would bring nothing good. But you cannot benefit from the advantages of EU membership without abiding by its obligations, so choosing to leave is a serious choice that has consequences."
He said the Irish situation would be assessed to see how it will be taken into account "in this context". And he stressed the principles of the Good Friday Agreement must be protected.