Friday 19 January 2018

Vive la France - €8.4bn reasons for Bastille Day cheers

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Paul O'Donoghue

As Bastille Day dawns, officials from both Ireland and France have hailed the relationship between the two countries, who last year traded €8.37bn worth of goods and services between them.

According to data from the Central Statistics Office, France is Ireland's sixth largest supplier and sixth biggest customer.

According to Business France, the national agency supporting the international development of the French economy, there are over 200 Irish companies operating in France, employing more than 16,000 people.

This is more than seven times the number of Irish businesses operating in France in 2007, during the height of the boom.

Back in 2007 there were just 30 Irish businesses operating inside France, a figure that rose to 50 businesses by 2012, and now stands at about 220 companies.

The three biggest Irish employers in France are packaging giant Smurfit Kappa, consulting multinational Accenture and Ireland's biggest company, building materials firm CRH. In France the three employ as many as 5,000, 4,000 and 2,500 staff respectively.

In terms of French investment in Ireland, while the European economic powerhouse does not come close to the scale of the US for example, it still accounts for approximately 5pc of FDI in Ireland.

According to CSO data, this FDI translated into 130 French firms in Ireland, employing about 13,000 people. As of late 2012, outstanding French FDI in Ireland recorded a peak at €18.3bn, up 9.5pc compared to 2011. Despite the links between the two nations in terms of trade, both countries are in different situations economically.

The French national statistics office INSEE said it expected France to grow 1.2pc in 2015 after an insipid 0.2pc in 2014. Growth will be driven primarily by greater spending power and household consumption, and by higher export levels.

In contrast to France's slow growth, Ireland is the fastest-expanding economy in Europe, with most commentators expecting GDP to grow by between 4pc and 5pc.

The president of the France Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Jim Rice, said: "From a business and economic perspective, Ireland and France arguably approach business and investment in different ways - Ireland's severe dose of austerity, followed by the highest growth rate in the EU, provides a stark contrast to France's rejection of austerity and slow-starting growth."

But Mr Rice, who is also the managing director of Schneider Electric, a multinational company with bases throughout France, said there are plenty of similarities between the two countries.

"France is fully accustomed to international business culture due to the number of French companies now operating on a global level, as well as the presence of many multinationals in France.

"As a result, the way French companies do business is similar in many respects to that of Irish companies."

Irish Independent

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