In France, A New Awakening?
The Eiffel Tower | Source: Shutterstock PARIS, France.

PARIS, France — While Britain grapples with its reactionary Brexit vote, across the English Channel, there are signs than long-stagnant France is finally modernising, embracing innovation and competitiveness.

– Indeed, in recent years, the country has made considerable headway on important business reforms, many championed by former economy minister and current presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron. On the agenda are plans to cut corporate tax rates, attract investment in high-growth sectors like technology and promote greater labour market flexibility.

In the retail sector, reforms to Sunday trading laws, which were put into place earlier this year, have played an important role in helping to lift sales at Paris department stores at a time when the city is suffering from a decline in tourism linked to security concerns. The change, which was initiated by Macron, established “international tourist zones” in the French capital, within which businesses could strike deals with unions to open on Sundays.

Galeries Lafayette, one of the first to start Sunday trading in its Paris stores, reported a 10 percent rise in sales at its BHV Marais store (where the change was first deployed), adding that Sunday had become its second best sales day. “It was absolutely crucial for us to have the Sunday opening,” said a spokesperson for the company. “It was very important for us to remain competitive with other European cities, to be in the race.”

Increased investment in France’s technology sector is adding to the sense of new momentum. Last year, France became the third most significant European tech hub — after London and Berlin — measured by number of tech start-ups, number of investment deals and amount of capital raised. Initiatives like Le French Tech, a government initiative promoting tech start-ups, have helped. And, in April, Station F, a new tech hub backed by French telecoms entrepreneur Xavier Niel, will open in a former railway depot. Facebook is set to anchor the campus-like location, which aims to house up to 1,000 tech ventures[…]