France and Monaco
France welcomes foreign investment and has a stable business climate that attracts investors from around the world. The French government devotes significant resources to attracting foreign investment through policy incentives, marketing, overseas trade promotion offices, and investor support mechanisms. France has an educated population, first-rate universities, and a talented workforce. It has a modern business culture, sophisticated financial markets, a strong intellectual property rights regime, and innovative business leaders. The country is known for its world-class infrastructure, including high-speed passenger rail, maritime ports, extensive roadway networks, public transportation, and efficient intermodal connections. High-speed (3G/4G) telephony is nearly ubiquitous, and France has begun its 5G roll-out in key metropolitan cities.
In 2020, despite the global economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States retained its position as the leading foreign investor in France. U.S. firms completed 204 investments in France in 2020, creating 8,286 jobs, five percent more than in 2019. The total stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in France reached nearly $84 billion. More than 4,600 U.S. firms operate in France, supporting nearly 500,000 jobs.
Following the election of French President Emmanuel Macron in May 2017, the French government implemented significant labor market and tax reforms. By relaxing the rules on companies to hire and fire employees and by offering investment incentives, Macron has improved the operating environment in France, based on surveys of U.S. investors. In late 2018, France’s Yellow Vest movement, a populist, grassroots protest movement for economic justice, rekindled class warfare and exemplified the existence of two Frances, putting on hold ongoing economic and labor reforms, such as cuts to unemployment benefits and pensions.
The onset of the pandemic in 2020 delayed these reforms indefinitely, as Macron shifted focus to mitigating France’s most severe economic crisis in the post-war era. The economy shrank 8.3 percent in 2020 compared to the year prior. In response, the government implemented unprecedented fiscal support for businesses and households that reached 25 percent of GDP as of March 2021. The government’s centerpiece fiscal package was the €100 billion ($118 billion) France Relance plan, of which over half is dedicated to supporting businesses, most of which is accessible to U.S. firms operating in France. This includes access to unemployment schemes that support workers’ wages, subsidies to vulnerable sectors, investment in green and developing technologies, production tax cuts and other tax benefits, and expanded funding for research and development. The government’s agenda aims to bolster competitiveness, increase productivity, and accelerate the ecological transition.
Also in 2020, France increased its protection against foreign direct investment that may pose a threat to national security. In the wake of the crisis, France’s investment screening body expanded the scope of sensitive sectors to include biotechnology companies and lowered the threshold to review an acquisition from a 25 percent ownership stake by the acquiring firm to 10 percent, a temporary provision set to expire at the end of 2021. In 2020, the government blocked at least one transaction, which included the attempted acquisition of a French firm by a U.S. company in the defense sector.
The 2021 finance law continues to reduce corporate tax from its current level of 28 percent. Firms with revenues above €250 million ($295 million) will be taxed 26.5 percent on profits in 2021, and 25 percent in 2022. Firms with revenues at or below €250 million ($295 million) will be taxed 27.5 percent on profits in 2021, and 25 percent in 2022. The OECD average rate is 21.5 percent.
Although France’s fiscal package is unprecedented at nearly 25 percent of GDP, it is not sufficient to fully absorb the economic impact of the pandemic. Key issues to watch in 2021 are: 1) the degree to which COVID-19 continues to agitate the macroeconomic environment in France and across Europe; 2) the extent of the government’s continued support for the economy; 3) the speed at which EU member states, including France, can draw down on the Next Generation EU package to support the broader European recovery; and 4) how the green transition impacts the business environment, including the possible implementation of an EU carbon border adjustment mechanism, which could impact firms’ ability to import and export.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2020||23 of 179||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||32 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2020||12 of 131||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2020||USD83.826||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2019||USD 42.450||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
The French government has made considerable progress in the last decade on the transparency and accessibility of its regulatory system. The government generally engages in industry and public consultation before drafting legislation or rulemaking through a regular but variable process directed by the relevant ministry. However, the text of draft legislation is not always publicly available before parliamentary approval. U.S. firms may also find it useful to become members of industry associations, which can play an influential role in developing government policies. Even “observer” status can offer insight into new investment opportunities and greater access to government-sponsored projects.
To increase transparency in the legislative process, all ministries are required to attach an impact assessment to their draft bills. The Prime Minister’s Secretariat General (SGG for Secretariat General du Gouvernement) is responsible for ensuring that impact studies are undertaken in the early stages of the drafting process. The State Council (Conseil d’Etat), which must be consulted on all draft laws and regulations, may reject a draft bill if the impact assessment is inadequate.
After experimenting with new online consultations, the Macron Administration is regularly using this means to achieve consensus on its major reform bills. These consultations are often open to professionals as well as citizens at large. Another innovation is to impose regular impact assessments after a bill has been implemented to ensure its maximum efficiency, revising, as necessary, provisions that do not work in favor of those that do. Finally, the Macron Administration aims to make all regulations and laws available online by 2022.
Over past decades, reforms have extended the investigative and decision-making powers of France’s Competition Authority. On April 11, 2019, France implemented the European Competition Network (ECN) Directive, which widens the powers of all European national competition authorities to impose larger fines and temporary measures. The Authority publishes its methodology for calculating fines imposed on companies charged with abuse of a dominant position. It issues specific guidance on competition law compliance, and government ministers, companies, consumer organizations, and trade associations now have the right to petition the authority to investigate anti-competitive practices.
While the Authority alone examines the impact of mergers on competition, the Minister of the Economy retains the power to request a new investigation or reverse a merger transaction decision for reasons of industrial development, competitiveness, or saving jobs. The Competition Authority continues to simplify takeover and merger notifications with online procedures via a dedicated platform in 2020. Also in 2020, the Competition Authority issued new merger control guidelines that replaced the prior ones issued in 2013. The new guidelines clarify the Competition Authority’s procedural rules and increase transparency into the substantive merger review process. In particular, the new rules emphasize the Competition Authority’s ability to request documents from merging parties.
France’s budget documents are comprehensive and cover all expenditures of the central government. An annex to the budget also provides estimates of cost sharing contributions, though these are not included in the budget estimates. Last September, the French government published its first “Green Budget,” as an annex to the 2021 Finance Bill. This event attests to France’s strong commitment, notably under the OECD-led “Paris Collaborative on Green Budgeting” (which France joined in December 2017), to integrate “green” tools into the budget process. In its spring report each year, the National Economic Commission outlines the deficits for the two previous years, the current year, and the year ahead, including consolidated figures on taxes, debt, and expenditures. Since 1999, the budget accounts have also included contingent liabilities from government guarantees and pension liabilities. The government publishes its debt data promptly on the French Treasury’s website and in other documents. Data on nonnegotiable debt is available 15 days after the end of the month, and data on negotiable debt is available 35 days after the end of the month. Annual data on debt guaranteed by the state is published in summary in the CGAF Report and in detail in the Compte de la dette publique. More information can be found at: https://www.imf.org/external/np/rosc/fra/fiscal.htm
International Regulatory Considerations
France is a founding member of the European Union, created in 1957. As such, France incorporates EU laws and regulatory norms into its domestic law. France has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995 and a member of GATT since 1948. While developing new draft regulations, the French government submits a copy to the WTO for review to ensure the prospective legislation is consistent with its WTO obligations. France ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement in October 2015 and has implemented all of its TFA commitments.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
French law is codified into what is sometimes referred to as the Napoleonic Code, but is officially the Code Civil des Francais, or French Civil Code. Private law governs interactions between individuals (e.g., civil, commercial, and employment law) and public law governs the relationship between the government and the people (e.g., criminal, administrative, and constitutional law).
France has an administrative court system to challenge a decision by local governments and the national government; the State Council (Conseil d’Etat) is the appellate court. France enforces foreign legal decisions such as judgments, rulings, and arbitral awards through the procedure of exequatur introduced before the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI), which is the court of original jurisdiction in the French legal system.
France’s Commercial Tribunal (Tribunal de Commerce or TDC) specializes in commercial litigation. Magistrates of the commercial tribunals are lay judges, who are well known in the business community and have experience in the sectors they represent. Decisions by the commercial courts can be appealed before the Court of Appeals. France’s judicial system is procedurally competent, fair, and reliable and is independent of the government.
The judiciary – although its members are state employees – is independent of the executive branch. The judicial process in France is known to be competent, fair, thorough, and time-consuming. There is a right of appeal. The Appellate Court (cour d’appel) re-examines judgments rendered in civil, commercial, employment or criminal law cases. It re-examines the legal basis of judgments, checking for errors in due process and reexamines case facts. It may either confirm or set aside the judgment of the lower court, in whole or in part. Decisions of the Appellate Court may be appealed to the Highest Court in France (cour de cassation).
The French Financial Prosecution Office (Parquet National Financier, or PNF), specialized in serious economic and financial crimes, was set up by a December 6, 2013 law and began its activities in 2014.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all sorts of remunerative activities. U.S. investment in France is subject to the provisions of the Convention of Establishment between the United States of America and France, which was signed in 1959 and remains in force. The rights it provides U.S. nationals and companies include: rights equivalent to those of French nationals in all commercial activities (excluding communications, air transportation, water transportation, banking, the exploitation of natural resources, the production of electricity, and professions of a scientific, literary, artistic, and educational nature, as well as certain regulated professions like doctors and lawyers). Treatment equivalent to that of French or third-country nationals is provided with respect to transfer of funds between France and the United States. Property is protected from expropriation except for public purposes; in that case it is accompanied by payment that is just, realizable, and prompt.
Potential investors can find relevant investment information and links to laws and investment regulations at http://www.businessfrance.fr/ .
Competition and Antitrust Laws
Major reforms have extended the investigative and decision-making powers of France’s Competition Authority. France implemented the European Competition Network or ECN Directive on April 11, 2019, allowing the French Competition Authority to impose heftier fines (above €3 million / $3.5 million) and temporary measures to prevent an infringement that may cause harm. The Authority issues decisions and opinions mostly on antitrust issues, but its influence on competition issues is growing. For example, following a complaint in November 2019 by several French, European, and international associations of press publishers against Google over the use of their content online without compensation, the Authority ordered the U.S. company to start negotiating in good faith with news publishers over the use of their content online. In another matter, on December 20, 2019, Google was fined €150 million ($177 million) for abuse of dominant position. Following an in-depth review of the online ad sector, the Competition Authority found Google Ads to be “opaque and difficult to understand” and applied in “an unfair and random manner.”
The Competition Authority launches regular in-depth investigations into various sectors of the economy, which may lead to formal investigations and fines. The Authority publishes its methodology for calculating fines imposed on companies charged with abuse of a dominant position. It issues specific guidance on competition law compliance. Government ministers, companies, consumer organizations and trade associations have the right to petition the authority to investigate anti-competitive practices. While the Authority alone examines the impact of mergers on competition, the Minister of the Economy retains the power to request a new investigation or reverse a merger transaction decision for reasons of industrial development, competitiveness, or saving jobs.
A new law on Economic Growth, Activity and Equal Opportunities (known as the “Macron Law”), adopted in August 2016, vested the Competition Authority with the power to review mergers and alliances between retailers ex-ante (beforehand). The law provides that all contracts binding a retail business to a distribution network shall expire at the same time. This enables the retailer to switch to another distribution network more easily. Furthermore, distributors are prohibited from restricting a retailer’s commercial activity via post-contract terms. The civil fine incurred for restrictive practices can now amount to up to five percent of the business’s revenue earned in France.
Expropriation and Compensation
In accordance with international law, the national or local governments cannot legally expropriate property to build public infrastructure without fair market compensation. There have been no expropriations of note during the reporting period.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
France is a member of the World Bank-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and a signatory to the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention) which means local courts are obligated to enforce international arbitral awards under this system. The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration (ICA) has been based in Paris since 1923.
France was one of the first countries to enact a modern arbitration law in 1980-1981. In 2011, the French Ministry of Justice issued Decree 2011-48, which introduced further international best practices into French arbitration procedural law. As a result, parties are free to agree orally to settle their disputes through arbitration, subject to standards of due process and a newly enacted principle of procedural efficiency and fairness.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The President of the High Civil Court of First Instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance) of Paris has the authority to issue orders related to ad-hoc international arbitration. Paris is the seat of the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration, composed of representatives from 90 countries, that handles investment as well as commercial disputes.
France does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. The European Commission directly negotiates on behalf of the EU on foreign direct investment since it is part of the EU Common Commercial Policy. In 2015, the EU agreed to pursue an investment court approach to investor-State dispute settlement. While this model is included in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada and the EU-Vietnam FTA, no actual court has yet been established in any form or context; no disputes have been brought under these post-2015 treaties.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
French law provides conditions for the recognition and the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in relation to the New York Convention. The provisions of French law are contained in the Code of Civil Procedure and the Code of Civil Enforcement Procedures. The recognition of judgments of foreign courts by French courts is possible, but judgements must be accompanied by the issuance of an exequatur – a legal document issued by a sovereign authority that permits the exercise or enforcement of a foreign judgement. The French Civil Code additionally provides for several mechanisms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) including out-of-court arbitration and conciliation where a judicial conciliator facilitates resolution of a dispute.
France has extensive and detailed bankruptcy laws and regulations. Any creditor, regardless of the amount owed, may file suit in bankruptcy court against a debtor. Foreign creditors, equity shareholders and foreign contract holders have the same rights as their French counterparts. Monetary judgments by French courts on firms established in France are generally made in euros. Not bankruptcy itself, but bankruptcy fraud – the misstatement by a debtor of his financial position in the context of a bankruptcy – is criminalized. Under France’s bankruptcy code managers and other entities responsible for the bankruptcy of a French company are prevented from escaping liability by shielding their assets (Law 2012-346). France has adopted a law that enables debtors to implement a restructuring plan with financial creditors only, without affecting trade creditors. France’s Commercial Code incorporates European Directive 2014/59/EU establishing a framework for the recovery and resolution of claims on insolvent credit institutions and investment firms. In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index, France ranked 32nd of 190 countries on ease of resolving insolvency.
The Bank of France, the country’s only credit monitor, maintains files on persons having written unfunded checks, having declared bankruptcy, or having participated in fraudulent activities. Commercial credit reporting agencies do not exist in France.
4. Industrial Policies
Following the election of President Emmanuel Macron in May 2017, the French government implemented significant labor market and tax reforms. By relaxing the rules on companies to hire and fire employees and by offering investment incentives, Macron improved the operating environment in France, based on surveys of U.S. investors.
However, with the onset of the pandemic, Macron delayed further planned reforms, including on pensions and unemployment, and shifted focus to mitigating France’s most severe economic crisis in the post-war era. The economy shrank 8.3 percent in 2020 compared to the year prior. In response, the government passed four modified budgets in 2020 and implemented an unprecedented level of fiscal support. As of April 2021, support and investment for businesses and households reached nearly €600 billion ($708 billion), or approximately 25 percent of GDP. It is mainly comprised of loan guarantees, unemployment schemes that support workers’ wages, subsidies to vulnerable sectors, investment in green and developing technologies, production tax cuts and other tax benefits, and expanded funding for research and development. The government’s agenda aims to bolster competitiveness, increase productivity, and accelerate the ecological transition.
As part of the €600 billion ($708 billion) in support measures, the government’s centerpiece stimulus package came in September 2020 with the €100 billion ($118 billion) France Relance plan. Over half is dedicated to supporting businesses, most of which is accessible to U.S. firms operating in France. The plan focuses on three pillars: ecological transition; industrial competitiveness; and education and skills training, with a particular emphasis on youth employment. Whereas previous government measures in response to the pandemic mainly focused on supporting demand through initiatives like the temporary unemployment scheme, this package largely employs supply-side measures to support industry, including a €20 billion ($23.6 billion) cut to production taxes to encourage reshoring of manufacturing to France. The government earmarked €34 billion ($40.4 billion) to boost business competitiveness, support re-shoring of production, and invest in key innovative industries. Finally, the government dedicated another €36 billion ($42.7 billion) to skills retraining and education, with a specific focus on improving capacity for youth. The government highlighted this third pillar would partly aim to tackle inequality and promote “social cohesion” across France. Forty percent of the “France Relaunch” package will be funded by EU grants corresponding to France’s share of the €750 billion ($885 billion) Next Generation EU fund.
As of April 2021, the government continues to expand its support measures and adapt them to the evolution of the COVID pandemic.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
France is subject to all EU free trade zone regulations. These allow member countries to designate portions of their customs’ territory as duty-free, where value-added activity is limited. France has several duty-free zones, which benefit from exemptions on customs for storage of goods coming from outside of the European Union. The French Customs Service administers them and provides details on its website ( http://www.douane.gouv.fr ). French legal texts are published online at http://legifrance.gouv.fr .
In September 2018, President Macron announced the extension of 44 Urban Free Zones (ZFU) in low-income neighborhoods and municipalities with at least 10,000 residents. The program provides incentives for employers, who have created 600 new jobs since 2016. Incentives include exemption from payment of payroll taxes and certain social contributions for five years, financed by €15 million ($17.7 million) a year in State funds.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
While there are no mandatory performance requirements established by law, the French government will generally require commitments regarding employment or R&D from both foreign and domestic investors seeking government financial incentives. Incentives like PAT regional planning grants (Prime d’Amenagement du Territoire pour l’Industrie et les Services) and related R&D subsidies are based on the number of jobs created, and authorities have occasionally sought commitments as part of the approval process for acquisitions by foreign investors.
The French government imposes the same conditions on domestic and foreign investors in cultural industries: all purveyors of movies and television programs (i.e., television broadcasters, telecoms operators, internet service providers and video services) must contribute a percentage of their revenues toward French film and television productions. They must also abide by broadcasting cultural content quotas (minimum 40 percent French, 20 percent EU).
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The 11 listed entities in which the French State maintains stakes at the federal level are Aeroports de Paris (50.63 percent); Airbus Group (10.95 percent); Air France-KLM (14.29 percent, although expected to increase temporarily to nearly 30 percent as part of a March 2021 bailout package); EDF (83.58 percent), ENGIE (23.64 percent), Eramet (25.57 percent), La Française des Jeux (FDJ) (21.91 percent), Orange (a direct 13.39 percent stake and a 9.60 percent stake through Bpifrance), Renault (15.01 percent), Safran (11.23 percent), and Thales 25.68 percent). Unlisted companies owned by the State include SNCF (rail), RATP (public transport), CDC (Caisse des depots et consignations) and La Banque Postale (bank). In all, the government has majority and minority stakes in 88 firms, in a variety of sectors.
Private enterprises have the same access to financing as SOEs, including from state-owned banks or other state-owned investment vehicles. SOEs are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors. Conversely, SOEs may get subsidies and other financial resources from the government, just as private competitors.
France, as a member of the European Union, is party to the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization. Companies owned or controlled by the state behave largely like other companies in France and are subject to the same laws and tax code. The Boards of SOEs operate according to accepted French corporate governance principles as set out in the (private sector) AFEP-MEDEF Code of Corporate Governance. SOEs are required by law to publish an annual report, and the French Court of Audit conducts financial audits on all entities in which the state holds a majority interest. The French government appoints representatives to the Boards of Directors of all companies in which it holds significant numbers of shares, and manages its portfolio through a special unit attached to the Ministry for the Economy and Finance Ministry, the shareholding agency APE (Agence de Participations de l’Etat). The State as a shareholder must set an example in terms of upholding high standards with respect for the environment, gender equality and social responsibility. The report also highlighted that the State must protect its strategic assets and remain a shareholder in areas where the general interest is at stake.
The government will temporarily increase its stake in Air France-KLM, which was severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Although terms are still being negotiated as of March 2021, it is likely France’s stake in the entity will increase from 14.3 percent to nearly 30 percent.
The government was due to privatize many large companies in 2019, including ADP and ENGIE in order to create a €10 billion ($11.8 billion) fund for innovation and research. However, the program was delayed because of political opposition to the privatization of airport manager ADP, regarded as a strategic asset to be protected from foreign shareholders. The government succeeded in selling in November 2019 a 52 percent stake in gambling firm FDJ. The government continues to maintain a strong presence in some sectors, particularly power, public transport, and defense industries.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
The business community has general awareness of standards for responsible business conduct (RBC) in France. The country has established a National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, coordinated and chaired by the Directorate General of the Treasury in the Ministry for the Economy and Finance. Its members represent State Administrations (Ministries in charge of Economy and Finance, Labor and Employment, Foreign Affairs, Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy), six French Trade Unions (CFDT, CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, CFTC, UNSA) and one employers’ organization, MEDEF.
The NCP promotes the OECD Guidelines in a manner that is relevant to specific sectors. When specific instances are raised, the NCP offers its good offices to the parties (discussion, exchange of information) and may act as a mediator in disputes if appropriate. This can involve conducting fact-finding to assist parties in resolving disputes, and posting final statements on any recommendations for future action with regard to the Guidelines. The NCP may also monitor how its recommendations are implemented by the business in question. In April 2017, the French NCP signed a two-year partnership with Global Compact France to increase sharing of information and activity between the two organizations.
In France, corporate governance standards for publicly traded companies are the product of a combination of legislative provisions and the recommendations of the AFEP-MEDEF code (two employers’ organizations). The code, which defines principles of corporate governance by outlining rules for corporate officers, controls and transparency, meets the expectations of shareholders and various stakeholders, as well as of the European Commission. First introduced in September 2002, it is regularly updated, adding new principles for the determination of remuneration and independence of directors, and now includes corporate social and environmental responsibility standards. The latest amendments in February 2019 tackle the remuneration and post-employment benefits of Chief Executive Officers and Executive Officers: 60 percent variable remuneration based on quantitative objectives and 40 percent on quality objectives, including efforts in the corporate social responsibility.
Also relating to transparency, the EU passed a regulation in 2017 to stem the trade in conflict minerals and, in particular, to stop conflict minerals and metals from being exported to the EU; to prevent global and EU smelters and refiners from using conflict minerals; and to protect mine workers from being abused. The regulation wentinto effect January 1, 2021, and now applies directly to French law.
France has played an active role in negotiating the ISO 26000 standards, the International Finance Corporation Performance Standards, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. France has signed on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), although, it has not yet been fully implemented.
The February 2017 “Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law” requires large companies based in France and having at least 5,000 employees to set up, implement, and publish a corporate plan to identify a due diligence approach and assess any potential risks to human rights, fundamental freedoms, workers’ health, safety, and risk to the environment from activities of their company and its affiliates through the supply chain.
Department of State
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices;
- Trafficking in Persons Report;
- Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities and;
- North Korea Sanctions & Enforcement Actions Advisory
Department of Labor
In line with President Macron’s campaign promise to clean up French politics, the French parliament adopted in September 2017 the law on “Restoring Confidence in Public Life.” The new law bans elected officials from employing family members, or working as a lobbyist or consultant while in office. It also bans lobbyists from paying parliamentary, ministerial, or presidential staff and requires parliamentarians to submit receipts for expenses.
France’s “Transparency, Anti-corruption, and Economic Modernization Law,” also known as the “Loi Sapin II,” came into effect on June 1, 2017. It brought France’s legislation in line with European and international standards. Key aspects of the law include: creating a new anti-corruption agency; establishing “deferred prosecution” for defendants in corruption cases and prosecuting companies (French or foreign) suspected of bribing foreign public officials abroad; requiring lobbyists to register with national institutions; and expanding legal protections for whistleblowers. The Sapin II law also established a High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP). The HATVP promotes transparency in public life by publishing the declarations of assets and interests it is legally authorized to share publicly. After review, declarations of assets and statements of interests of members of the government are published on the High Authority’s website under open license. The declarations of interests of members of Parliament and mayors of big cities and towns, but also of regions are also available on the website. In addition, the declarations of assets of parliamentarians can be accessed in certain governmental buildings, though not published on the internet.
France is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The U.S. Embassy in Paris has received no specific complaints from U.S. firms of unfair competition in France in recent years. France ranked 23rd of 180 countries on Transparency International’s (TI) 2020 corruption perceptions index. See https://www.transparency.org/country/FRA .
Resources to Report Corruption
The Central Office for the Prevention of Corruption (Service Central de Prevention de la Corruption or SCPC) was replaced in 2017 by the new national anti-corruption agency – the Agence Francaise Anticorruption (AFA). The AFA is charged with preventing corruption by establishing anti-corruption programs, making recommendations, and centralizing and disseminating information to prevent and detect corrupt officials and company executives. The French anti-corruption agency guidelines can be found here: https://www.agence-francaise-anticorruption.gouv.fr/files/2021-03/French%20AC%20Agency%20Guidelines%20.pdf . The AFA will also administrative authority to review the anticorruption compliance mechanisms in the private sector, in local authorities and in other government agencies.
Contact information for Agence Française Anti-corruption (AFA):
Director: Charles Duchaine
23 Avenue d’Italie
Tel : (+33) 1 44 87 21 14
Contact information for Transparency International’s French affiliate:
Transparency International France
14, Passage Dubail
Tel: (+33) 1 84 16 95 65;
11. Labor Policies and Practices
France has one of the lowest unionized work forces in the developed world (between 8-11 percent of the total work force). However, unions have strong statutory protections under French law that give them the power to engage in sector- and industry-wide negotiations on behalf of all workers. As a result, an estimated 98 percent of French workers are covered by union-negotiated collective bargaining agreements. Any organizational change in the workplace must usually be presented to the unions for a formal consultation as part of the collective bargaining process.
The number of apprenticeships in France peaked in 2020, at over 500,000, including 495,000 in the private sector, according to February 5, 2021 Labor Ministry figures. Apprenticeships, like vocational training, have been placed under the direct management of the government via a newly created agency called France Compétences. Growth of apprenticeship and reform of vocational training help to explain the drop in the unemployment rate in 2019 and in the first quarter of 2020.
During the COVID-19 crisis, France’s partial unemployment scheme, which allows firms to retain their employees while the government continues to pay a portion of their wages, expanded dramatically in scope and size and kept unemployment at pre-crisis levels (between 8-9 percent). The government initially enacted a gradual reform of France’s Unemployment Insurance scheme in July 2019 but suspended it at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite labor union opposition, a government decree published on April 1, 2021 changed how benefits are calculated from July 1, 2021 to ensure unemployment benefits never exceed the average monthly net salary. Other changes, such as stricter rules for accessing unemployment benefits and the reduction of benefits for high earners will go into effect “when the economic situation allows.” Pension reform and the introduction of financial sanctions to limit the use of short-term contracts have been delayed until after the May 2022 presidential elections.