Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Where to find petrol (gas) in France

The Local France has an interactive map of where to find gas (petrol) stations that have supplies. They also have a map of where the gas shortage is being felt the worst.

The Economist has some essential reading from May 27 that covers the recent mayhem including more than 2,300 petrol stations that are either dry or rationing portions.

Travel wisely and be safe. I’ll be Tweeting updates from my handle @AmExpatFrance.

Strikes in France – what to know

France strikes - taken from The Economist (link below)

France strikes – taken from The Economist (link below)

Essential reading from The Economist (May 27)
Article here focuses on all that is going on in France.

Update May 27 from US Embassy Paris:

Full link to travel advisory

“…The following strikes have been announced for the week of May 30:

Rail – The national unions which represents rail workers renewed their call for strikes limiting rail services along the TVG, RER and SNCF networks. An “unlimited strike” is scheduled to start at 9 am on Tuesday, May 31 for a period of at least 24 hours.

Paris-area Public Transportation – The union representing the Paris metro area transportation (RATP) has called for an “unlimited strike” starting on June 2 of all public transportation services, including the Paris metro, buses, and RER trains.

Air – Air traffic controllers have also called for strikes Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5 which could result in delays or cancellations of flights originating in France…”

By now, you have probably heard that France has been undergoing rounds of strikes and protests over the past couple months. This is in large part due to proposed labor reforms. Of course most of you know that strikes and public outcry are a way of life in France that most people tend to accept with a shrug.

The Local France has an interesting piece on this cultural reality, as well as countless publications in the past including BBC and Slate. Even The Onion got in on the humor with a fake French protest image back in 2005.

But this time seems to be different: these are arguably the strikes with the most impact in 20 years. Taken with the ongoing “state of emergency” that France has put into place since the November terrorist attacks (and have extended), France has a palpable undercurrent of tension.

For now, what you should know about the strikes: 
These strikes are affecting transportation, oil refineries, nuclear power stations and more throughout the country. The BBC outlines the main points of the proposed reforms here along with more coverage of the action. I’ve laid those out at the end of this post.

The Economist also has an interesting piece on the strikes – anticipating action throughout the summer.

Another useful guide is from the great folks at The Local. Local resources in France for tracking news updates include the SNCF website, which currently states that traffic should start resuming to normal May 27 but to keep abreast of updates. Their travel agency Voyages SNCF also has a helpful resource for train travel updates.

You should also stay abreast of airline travel through your local airline. Aéroports de Paris does have general updates as well for Paris Orly and Paris CDG traffic.

BFM TV, Libération, France 24 and Le Monde are also great resources.

At the time of this being published, there have been clashes reported by protestors in Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux and other major cities. Your local embassy should be the best resource for expat nationals living and traveling in France for up to date security information. The US Embassy, for example, has contact info here and updates on their Twitter feed.

Want to brush up on your French travel vocabulary? Try or FluentU.

If you have travel plans to France or are thinking of moving there in the coming year, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so – just do your research and travel intelligently. I have lived in France for 30% of my entire life at different times as an intern, student, grad student, English teacher and employee. It is a place that is dear to me, and I would love for you to also have those life-changing experiences.

Travel smartly, safely and avoid protest areas. Take a lesson from my French friends and enjoy life, drink some wine and sit back to see how this evolves. C’est la vie, enfin.

French labour reform bill – main points

  • The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours
  • Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
  • The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn
  • Employers given more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated

The Economist’s France 14-page special report

November 19th, 2012 3 comments

The Economist this week has a 14-page special report this week in its print edition that focuses on France, from its economy to politics, under the central theme of how economic structural reform is necessary in order to avoid a “time bomb” going off at the heart of the Eurozone. You can access the Nov. 17, 2012 print edition contents here. The leader article introducing the special report is here, and the special report link can be found at the table of contents site under “Special report: France” (there are 8 articles).

I’m delving into all this right now and encourage you to do the same. Even if you don’t agree with the magazine’s analysis, it is a highly-regarded publication for a reason: for asking important questions.

This is the not the first time the British news magazine has waxed poetic about France’s economic woes and potential for growth. Indeed, French economic and business paper Les Echos puts past covers and stories into perspective (in French).

What do you think are France’s biggest problems and do you think Hollande and Ayrault’s government can solve them?


Will France be the next market downgrade?

As most of you have seen in recent days, world stock markets have been manic depressive, going through ups and mostly downs due in large part to widespread worries that the US debt downgrade from S&P and the fiscal debt in countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain will result in worse market conditions for investors.

My other sovereign’s an AAA (The Economist)

There was a market backlash against French debt and enormous market losses for French banks like Société Générale, BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole (exposed to Greek debt and other European sovereign debt) that is making investors increasingly anxious about France’s debt. Indeed as The Economist writes:

“France’s debt stood at 82% of GDP last year, from 64% in 2007. This is one of the highest of any AAA-rated country. That, investors fear, means it could be the next target for a downgrade, especially if already anaemic economic growth falters further. The extra yield required by investors to hold French debt instead of German Bunds jumped to almost triple the average level of 2010 while the cost of insuring against a default by France reached new highs during the week.”

Moreover, as The Telegraph writes, “French banks have €410bn (£360bn) of exposure to Italy alone according to the Bank for International Settlements. The twin crises in France and Italy are now intimately linked and appear to be feeding on each other.”

How will France proceed? According to a great, in-depth Bloomberg interview (embedding not allowed) with Philippe D’Arvisenet, global chief economist at BNP Paribas SA, France initiating austerity measures is “inescapable”. They go on to discuss France’s exposure to European sovereign debt, reform plans to cut spending but keep tax rates at current levels (though with elimination of some 500 tax loopholes).

The same Telegraph article states, “French president Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered a “general mobilization” to slash France’s budget deficit in a frantic effort to safeguard the country’s AAA rating and head off a downgrade by Standard & Poor’s.”

We will see how this plays out…for now, the markets will likely continue to be manic depressive. Hang on tight!

I leave you with this passage from the Telegraph article:

“…Marchel Alexandrivich from Jefferies Fixed Income said investors are worried that the latest contagion to France could bring the eurozone’s bubbling problems to a head in a dramatic fashion.

“If France is dragged into the problem, then we will hit crisis point. They will either have to move to a full-blown eurobond — and German politicians are set against that — or face a break-up. There is a significant chance that the euro will no longer exist in its current form within twelve months,” he said.
President Sarkozy said France would include a “golden rule” in its constitution to restore fiscal probity, adding that the fiscal targets for 2011 and 2012 were “untouchable”.

The new budget measures will be introduced on August 24 and are expected to include the closure of 500 tax loopholes.

The IMF said France has the highest debt ratio of any AAA state this year at 85pc of GDP and may have to tighten further next year. Like the US, France has also built up huge pension debt and contingent liabilities.”

Christine Lagarde elected head of IMF: American reaction

BBC/AFP: Christine Lagarde will start her five-year term at the IMF on 5 July

As former French Finance Minister has been named IMF head, effective July 5th, and François Baroin has been named her replacement, Le Figaro has an interesting article on Christine Lagarde from an American perspective, as well as a longer article into her path that lead her to Washington.

Meanwhile, she appeared in 2009 on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Check it out here.

French economic growth highest since 2006

Good news for the French economy, at least relatively speaking. It grew by 1% during the first quarter of 2011, compared to the last quarter of 2010, “its fastest rate since the second quarter of 2006.” This in part due to a stronger manufacturing sector.

More from BBC:
“.,.All of the eurozone countries are due to report GDP figures on Friday. France’s economy minister Christine Lagarde said she was now “very confident that the (government) forecast of 2% growth for 2011 can be met”.She added that the manufacturing sector had been a particularly strong driver of growth in France.”

Bonjour Paris newsletter: ISF wealth tax, G20 in Paris, etc.

February 21st, 2011 1 comment

I wrote in this week’s Bonjour Paris about these topics and more. You can read the article here. You can see my profile and other articles on this page.

You can read more about the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers in Paris in Le Point (in French). The Financial Times also covers the story (if you can’t read story on 1st try because of subscription matters, you can google the article title and usually find an accessible version).

French national sales “les soldes” have started, until Feb. 15

January 13th, 2011 No comments

Yesterday, January 12, the semiannual “soldes”, or sales, started in France (the 2nd period is in June/July, will be sure to let you know the dates beforehand). You can see more on French shopping and fashion on my page here.

The dates this time around for most departments are from January 12 to February 15, although for some departments (highlighted here), the dates are slightly different.

You can see the official site in English here. also has an interesting piece.

Bonjour Paris has a nice article on them :

“…in France, by law, sales (soldes) are held only twice a year, once in January and again in July. The government decides when the sales will be held and announces the official dates soon before the sales start. The stores then flutter around getting ready and shopaholics (myself included!) wait with bated breath for the opening day of the sales. Sale prices start at about 25-30% off for the first few days, and grow bigger as the sales go on. By the end of the sales (6 weeks maximum), the reductions can be up to 75% off, but the merchandise is slim.”

There is a French guide here as well. Excerpts from Stratégies Magazine:

«Soldes by Paris», une opération de charme pour attirer les touristes
La cinquième édition de «Soldes by Paris», qui propose plus de 300 offres inédites pour se loger, dîner, acheter et se cultiver, a débuté ce 12 janvier, en même temps que la période des soldes. L’opération, organisée par l’Office de tourisme de Paris avec le soutien de la chambre de commerce et d’industrie de la capitale, la mairie de Paris et Atout France, vise à renforcer l’attractivité de la capitale face à des concurrents comme Londres ou Dubaï en attirant les touristes du monde entier au cours d’un mois traditionnellement creux. Un site Internet a été mis en ligne et une application Iphone en quatre langues est disponible gratuitement.

Revitalizing French business and making France more competitive

This engaging piece in the Wall Street Journal Europe features the Director of MEDEF, the national employers’ association, Laurence Parisot, talking about the challenges facing French business and the EU in general, and how to overcome them to implement growth. What is your experience with French business, and how do practices in France differ from those in your home country?

Because WSJ is often paid-only access, I’ve posted the entire article below. Happy reading.

Breaking France’s Business Mold


Laurence Parisot is a household name in France. In a recent poll by Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche, the boss of French employers’ organization Medef featured alongside famous actresses as one of the country’s most popular women.

Until recently, the job of running Medef was an attractive sinecure for a retired industrialist, but the diminutive Frenchwoman has broken the mold, using the Medef platform to make business politically sexy; no mean feat in France, where for decades it was a dirty word.

A friend and confidante of President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom she met at Sciences Po, the elite political-science school, Ms. Parisot has just been re-elected for a second five-year term at Medef. Now, she wants to go further and use Medef to promote the interests of business across Europe, and she is looking to the Confederation of British Industry in London, the BDI in Berlin and Confindustria, the Italian employers’ lobby, to achieve that goal.

“In September we will make some initiatives between employers’ organizations between key European countries,” she says.

Ms. Parisot acknowledges that bringing national business interests together will be difficult and will require compromise. Each country has its strengths and its challenges.

Britain’s problem, she says, is its decision a decade ago to focus on financial services—a mono-industry, as she describes it—while France’s Achilles’ heel has been its slowness to bring about structural reforms.

“For Germany, the main problem is they are first in class and they are waiting for others to arrive at their level,” she says.

Ms. Parisot wants EU governments to rally round European champions. For example, she says, “London is the City. As a French person I would prefer it to be Paris, but as a European, I really prefer that we keep the City in London than that some new regulations, such as Basel III, push all the financial people to Hong Kong or Singapore.”

The Basel III reforms to banking regulation are a key concern for Ms. Parisot, who considers the tightened solvency rules a potential threat to the EU financial sector. The drive for tighter regulation is inspired in Washington, she says, even though the U.S. was slow to implement the Basel II rules.

“The danger comes from the U.S., and the impact on the cost of credit and volume of credit will be very significant. This is a very important competitiveness issue,” she says.

Last week she co-wrote with CBI Director-General Richard Lambert and the boss of the BDI a joint letter to the British, French and German environment ministers, castigating them for their support for deeper cuts in carbon-dioxide emissions.

The letter came after Chris Huhne, the U.K. energy secretary, and his French and German counterparts, Jean-Louis Borloo and Norbert Röttgen, earlier in July called on the EU to raise its target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to 30% by 2020 from 20%.

“We were very upset,” Ms. Parisot says. “We wrote a tough letter to these ministers. To reduce by 20% our CO2 by 2020 is a big step which costs a lot and which is quite harmful in competitiveness.”

Ms. Parisot reckons Mr. Borloo’s stance hasn’t secured wide support within the French government, but Britain has set out its stall to be at the cutting edge of climate-change legislation. Ms. Parisot is worried climate change is one of many policy areas in which European business risks losing its competitive edge.

She also criticizes DG Competition, the EU’s antitrust directorate, for being too focused on the internal market, thereby hindering European businesses keen to join forces in order to face global competitors.

“DG Competition is less harsh towards Microsoft when it seeks to establish itself in Europe than when two Europeans wish to grow together. I am in favor of competition but it must be on the right scale. The scale today is the planet, with powerful new forces being built in Brazil, India, Indonesia. We must raise the bar together.”

Ms. Parisot wants European employers’ organizations to find common ground for some projects, even in the area of industrial policy, a subject she describes as taboo in Britain. For example, she argues, Europe needs to coordinate its efforts in nuclear power.

“Areva and Siemens split. Siemens is looking towards Russia and Areva towards Japan. Isn’t it crazy? We all know energy will be the most important thing for 20 years forward,” she says.

Ms. Parisot insists she is not an interventionist, and she has a track record in France of being on the political right, an economic liberal, opposing subsidies and campaigning for economic reform. She is a businesswoman to the core, having inherited Parisot Group, her family’s private furniture business. And with family backing, she bought 75% of Ifop, the French polling organization. In her first term at Medef she promoted key economic reforms, including raising France’s state pension age by two years, and she recently forced the government to retreat on measures such as the imposition of a carbon tax and curbs on executive pay.

She also describes herself as a “very strong feminist” and has promoted a new law, currently in Parliament, requiring that women make up 40% of the boards of leading companies.

It is a reform that strikes a personal chord for Ms. Parisot. Aged 50 and unmarried, she says she has battled discrimination at every stage of her career, and she reckons the climate for French professional women has deteriorated over the past decade.

“I encountered misogyny every day, every morning. Sometimes you don’t see it. Sometimes I didn’t understand why I didn’t get a contract,” she says.

She believes Europe needs to harmonize. Even on taxes? Yes, she says, and that means bringing business leaders to the political table. In the past, progress in Europe depended on good relationships between the French president and the German chancellor. Today, she says it has become too complex for governments alone to form policy and do deals. There must be a compromise and business must be part of the deal.

“That is why I push my colleagues from CBI, from BDI and from Confindustria. If we think European competitiveness is an issue, we have part of the responsibility to move forward,” she says, adding “If we continue [the way we are going], I am pretty sure we will be weaker and weaker. L’union fait la force. The potential if you put the U.K., France and Germany together. Can you imagine the potential that represents? If we don’t react, China will swallow us. And India, too.”

—Carl Mortished is a writer living in London.

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