By Michel Rose and Tassilo Hummel
PARIS (Reuters) -France is poised to win record foreign investment pledges when President Emmanuel Macron receives global business leaders, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, on Monday at the annual Choose France summit in Versailles.
For the president, whose popularity has suffered from a widely unpopular proposal to raise the French retirement age, the summit is a chance to justify his pro-business reform drive and shift attention to his promotion of lower carbon industry, such as electric vehicles.
Executives attending the event in Versailles close to Paris have so far made commitments to invest a combined 13 billion euros ($14 billion), the most since Macron first held the summit in 2018.
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, met Macron at his official residence the Elysee Palace. Sat opposite Macron in one of the French president’s gilded offices, Musk, clad in a black suit, joked that he had to “sleep in the car” in remarks caught on camera before their meeting.
Over lunch at Versailles later, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire will pitch to Musk new tax credits for investments in green technology that Macron made public last week, the finance ministry told Reuters.
France previously tried to convince Musk to build a European gigafactory in the country, but he chose Germany, his only European gigafactory so far.
Asked by BFM TV about possible investments by Musk, Le Maire said only “all investments that are being made today are the result of months or even years of negotiations”.
Tesla was not immediately available for comment.
Over the last five years, Macron has invited top CEOs to the opulent Versailles Palace to try to secure billions in foreign investments.
For the former investment banker, who cannot stand again in elections due in 2027 after two terms but is looking to his legacy, the summit offers a chance to move on from months of protests and strikes against his plans to raise the retirement age by two years to 64.
He is also competing on a global stage for investment in green technology when the United States has become a magnet following the introduction of its Inflation Reduction Act.
Tesla’s plant near Berlin began delivering cars in March 2022 and now produces around 5,000 Model Y vehicles a week, with a maximum capacity of 500,000 cars per year.
But Tesla has said that, while it has begun assembling batteries in Germany, it will focus cell production in the U.S. in light of IRA incentives, making it one of the first firms to declare a strategy shift prompted by the package.
To counter that, Macron said last week France’s existing cash incentive of up to 5,000 euros for buyers of new electric cars would be made conditional on their producers meeting tough low-carbon standards, effectively excluding cars made outside Europe.
France so far expects a total of 28 investment projects from companies ranging from U.S. pharmaceutical group Pfizer to Swedish furniture maker IKEA and investment bank Morgan Stanley. In total, the projects are expected to create 8,000 jobs.
The single biggest investment is a 5.2 billion euro project from a Taiwanese car battery maker in the northern port city of Dunkirk, which Macron announced on Friday.
It is followed by a 1.5 billion euro battery components plant also in Dunkirk in a joint venture between Chinese group XTC and French firm Orano.
IKEA has plans to invest 906 million euros by 2026 while Pfizer has budgeted 500 million euros to expand in France over the same period followed by British rival GSK with 400 million euros, Macron’s office said.
Morgan Stanley is expected to announce the creation of 200 new banking jobs in Paris.
($1 = 0.9084 euros)
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas, Tassilo Hummel, Blandine Henault, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Michel Rose and Silvia Aloisi in Paris and Victoria Waldersee in Berlin;Editing by Christina Fincher and Barbara Lewis)