FM welcomes Chinese investors in French food

26th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 25, 2006 (AFP) - French Finance Minister Thierry Breton strongly defended state activism in the agriculture sector Wednesday but also insisted that the country was open to investment from abroad.

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 25, 2006 (AFP) - French Finance Minister Thierry Breton strongly defended state activism in the agriculture sector Wednesday but also insisted that the country was open to investment from abroad.

"I believe like my American friends that agriculture is absolutely key for the future," Breton told a press briefing at the World Economic Forum in this Swiss alpine town.

"We will have bigger and bigger problems every year to secure the food chain," he explained as fears grew in Europe about a possible bird flu pandemic.

Breton said however that the sector was open to investment from abroad, despite a flap in July when the US drinks giant PepsiCo was believed to have considered a bid for French dairy giant Danone.

At the time, company management, trade unions and the government said they would fight any attempt to take Danone out of French hands.

Asked Wednesday if officials were now prepared to allow Chinese investors to take a major stake in such a cultural icon, Breton replied: "We had a lot of investment coming from China last year in telecommunications, the mobile industry, in TV ... why not in food?"

"We don't have any limits of course, there's no regulations, France is an open country."

China was mentioned because it has just surpassed France and Britain to become the fourth biggest economy in the world, and Chinese groups have begun to pursue active foreign investment strategies.

"I think the big story is that China is moving up," Breton acknowledged, adding that France had been preparing for the challenge for many years.

But he also stressed that China had also become "an extremely important industrial partner in this new global environment".

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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