France's Macron hosts 150 world business leaders


PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron hosted 150 international business leaders at the Palace of Versailles on Monday in hopes of producing support for his agenda as yellow vest protesters keep up their demonstrations to his government’s economic policies.

The CEOs or top executives of Microsoft, Uber, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and IBM were among those attending at the evening event, where Macron wants to promote tax changes and other measures intended to attract foreign investors.

The foreign executives arranged to stop in France while en route to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Several companies used the Versailles event Monday to announce planned investments in France worth a total of 600 million euros ($682 million), Macron’s office said.

Chinese group Microport, which specializes in medical devices, plans to put 350 million euros ($398 million) over the next five years toward developing pacemakers and defibrillators in France.

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U.S. food manufacturer Mars said it would invest 120 million euros ($136 million) on work at eight locations in France.

Microsoft and IBM announced the development of centers focusing on artificial intelligence.

American technology group Cisco has a 60-million euro plan ($68 million) to further develop its Paris innovation and research lab by 2022.

State statistics agency Insee last month lowered its 2018 growth estimate for France to 1.5 percent, down from 2.2 percent in 2017.

Macron was elected in 2017 on a pro-European, pro-business platform, arguing that economic policies would make France stronger for globalization. He has started cutting taxes on business revenue and is planning other similar cuts by 2022.

Citizens wearing the yellow vests French motorists are required to carry in their vehicles started weekly protests of a fuel tax increase in mid-November. Anger over the president’s policies that were seen as favoring the wealthy swelled the demonstrations into a broader anti-government movement.

Macron launched a “national debate” last week to solicit ideas from citizens and to help assuage the anger. Thousands of people nevertheless turned out in Paris and several other cities Saturday, the 10th consecutive weekend of demonstrations.

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