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France to set aside 15 billion euros to boost innovation, relocation: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a protective face mask, visits a site of pharmaceutical group Seqens, a global leader on the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, to mobilize innovation and support the research on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, near Paris, France August 28, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Pool

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that 15 billion euros ($18 billion) will be made available in France’s post-coronavirus recovery plan to boost innovation and industrial relocation.

Macron’s government wants to spur companies to relocate more production back to France after the coronavirus crisis laid bare its dependence on foreign Asian suppliers for many goods, including pharmaceutical inputs and medical masks.

“In the recovery plan that will be worth a bit more than 100 billion euros, there will be 15 billion euros for innovation and relocation,” Macron told journalists on a visit to a drugmaker near Paris.

The money will target industries deemed to be of strategic importance for France’s future, including hydrogen energy, recycling, quantum computing and green technologies.

He added that 1 billion euros of that money would be earmarked specifically for direct aid to support projects for companies moving production back to France.

Macron said the stimulus plan due to be announced next Thursday would be a 10-year programme designed to make a stronger France in 2030.

France’s industrial base has shrunk drastically over the last two decades more than in any other OECD country, according to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who has been tasked with reversing the trend.

The government has promised to cut by 10 billion euros business taxes French firms must pay on top of normal corporate income tax and which executives say is one of the main reasons French firms have offshored so much production.

While foreign investment in France has risen since Macron came to power in 2017 on a pro-business reform agenda, there have so far been scarce signs that French firms are returning production back to France on a large scale.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Leigh Thomas; Editing by Toby Chopra and Angus MacSwan

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