France is more open to foreign investment than the US or Germany, the country's industry minister has claimed, as he singled out Britain as being in “even bigger difficulty than France over its budget deficit”.
Arnaud Montebourg said that anti-French sentiment over the country's attitude towards foreign investors formed part of a "negative campaign" against the country that had created “a growing gap between the perception of France and the reality”.
“To say France doesn’t love the economy and doesn’t love its companies: that is a falsehood,” Mr Montebourg told the Financial Times . “We have a tradition of welcome in our country for foreign companies that goes back a long way, including when JPMorgan (LSE: JPIU.L - news) came here in 1868.”
The boss of US tyremaker Titan said this week that it would be “stupid” to invest in France because of its lazy workforce and "crazy unions". Maurice Taylor wrote a barrage of abuse to Mr Montebourg after the French politician appealed for financial support for an ailing Goodyear factory.
"The French workforce gets paid high wages but only work for three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that's the French way!" Mr Taylor said in the letter.
But Mr Montebourg, who branded Mr Taylor's comments "ignorant", insisted that France was more attractive to foreign investors than America or Germany. He told the FT that France's ratio of foreign investment to GDP was 39pc last year, compared with 23pc in America and 20pc in Germany, citing UN Conference data.
“It is important that the press sticks to the facts because it is the press that is read by investors. And if you look at the facts, they speak for themselves," he said.
Mr Montebourg has staunchly defended France's position on the global stage. Last November, he angrily rejected a charge by The Economist that France was the "time-bomb at the heart of Europe" , after its main article raised concerns that president Francois Hollande's economic reforms were not ambitious enough.
He told French radio: "Honestly, The Economist has never distinguished itself by its sense of even-handedness."
A more severe than expected downturn has forced the French government to delay a target of cutting the state deficit to 3pc GDP this year. On Saturday, Mr Hollande said that France would not introduce any fresh cuts in 2013 to avoid falling into what analysts have described as an "austerity trap".
It would be wrong to take measures that put another brake on consumption and investment," Mr Hollande said at the annual Paris farm show on Saturday. "There is no need to add more austerity in 2013. A lot has already been asked of the taxpayer."
But Mr Montebourg insisted that France was still in a better position than some countries, including Britain.
“There is no country which is fixing its public finances that is avoiding increasing its taxes,” he said. “The US with its fiscal cliff has a programme of high taxes. The UK, which is in even bigger difficulty than France over its budget deficit, is not escaping tax rises. Every country that has lived beyond their means has to do this.”