It is a rivalry that has lasted for many centuries.
The rivalry between France and England is legendary.
The two countries shared the world until the Great War. Now, they are two former great powers relegated to the rank of stooges of the United States and China.
But for historical reasons, their rivalry continues and is even intense in the business world, where the two countries often compete to lure investments by multinationals. London tends to point to flexible labor laws, a favorable tax code and less red tape to attract foreign investors. The other strong argument of England is the language. English is considered the language of business.
For its part, Paris has not given up. The country boasts the quality of life, its infrastructures, its elite schools, which are a breeding ground for talent, and its very competitive power prices. And for some years, successive governments have tried to reduce the power of the unions and lighten the administrative machine in order to neutralize certain advantages of London, because many are the multinationals which are scared away by the images of giant protests in the streets of big cities.
Paris vs. London
Recently, images of violent demonstrations against pension reform have gone around the world, overshadowing President Emmanuel Macron’s agenda to attract foreign businesses. Macron wants to make France the tech hub — i.e. the capital of artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies — and the nerve center of the development of batteries intended for electric vehicles in Europe.
France saw an opportunity with the exit of the United Kingdom from the eurozone, known as Brexit. While the rivalry intensified, the most powerful CEO in the world has just chosen between the two countries. Elon Musk, the richest man in the world according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and serial entrepreneur, opted for France. The Techno King announced his choice after a Twitter user posted a message comparing France to England. Musk reacted.
“Very good post,” posted on June 3 Patrick Collison, the billionaire CEO of fintech Stripe. “(Particularly liked this comparative analysis of France and the UK.)”
Collison outlined the following: “Ben Southwood has convinced me that France is rich because it gets the big things basically right. Housing supply there is freer: the overall geographic extent of Paris’s metropolitan area roughly tripled between 1945 and today, whereas London’s has grown only a few percent.”
The comparison between the two countries continued.
“Infrastructure is better: 29 French cities have trams, versus 11 here (likely one reason its second-tier cities are much more productive than Britain’s). It has nearly 12,000km of motorways versus around 4,000km here – and French motorways tend to be smoother and better kept (and three quarters are tolled, making congestion much less of a problem).”
Finally: “Childcare is cheaper: about half the price per month, in part because they require half the staff. Energy is more abundant, as shown above. Because it gets those big four things right, it can afford to get a lot of other things wrong.”
‘Vive La France’
These arguments seem to have convinced Musk to the point that he reacted enthusiastically.
“Vive la France!” the billionaire proclaimed, surrounding his message with the French flag on the left and on the right.
“+1,” Macron reacted to Musk’s choice.
The billionaire’s choice is a huge gift to Macron, who is trying to relaunch his second term. Seeing the most influential CEO in the world praising France on Twitter, considered the town square of our times, is strong support for the French president’s efforts to show his people that he can convince foreign investors to invest in the country.
It is also the fruit of a French campaign aimed at courting Musk.
Last month, the CEO of the electric vehicle manufacturer was the star guest at a summit organized by France — “Choose France” — which brought together bosses of foreign multinationals at the Palace of Versailles. Macron rolled out the red carpet to Musk, whom he personally received at the Élysée Palace in Paris, before the opening of the summit. The two leaders also had dinner together.
“With @ElonMusk, we talked about the attractiveness of France and the significant progress in the electric vehicle and energy sectors. We also talked about digital regulation. We have so much to do together. See you this afternoon at the #ChooseFrance Summit!” Macron posted after the meeting.
“It was an honor to meet!” Musk commented.
No investment announcement has yet been made, but Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that “there are negotiations going on.”
In the meantime, it is in Germany, Europe’s leading economic power, where Tesla has set up its first factory on the Old Continent.