New French business leader talks tough on taxes

3rd July 2013, Comments 0 comments

Industrialist Pierre Gattaz became head of the employers federation MEDEF on Wednesday and immediately called for a massive cut in taxes and charges on businesses.

He said the government should cut these costs by 100 billion euros ($129 billion) over five years.

"My message is clear," he told the general assembly of the MEDEF. "We will no longer accept increases in charges, nor of taxes which burden our activities."

Gattaz, who heads French high-tech components firm Radiall, says he wants to see policies to stimulate the industrial base by boosting exports.

"We have everything we need to succeed in France, everything we need to export," Gattaz said last month as he strolled through workshops at his family owned company which makes electronics parts for industrial groups worldwide.

"If I can do it, we can do it," the jovial, round-faced industrialist insisted.

His call for a huge boost to France's flagging competitive position by cutting taxes and social charges comes against a background of gloom over the state of the economy and tensions within the Socialist government over reforms.

Gattaz succeeds Laurence Parisot as head of the MEDEF. She was the first woman to head the federation.

Gattaz, 53, also has convictions that set him on a potential collision course with the government and trade unions.

Trained as a telecommunications engineer in France and the United States, Gattaz worked at Dassault Electronique and turned around failing companies before joining Radiall, of which his family owns 87 percent, in the early 1990s.

His father, Yvon Gattaz, was head of the CNPF, MEDEF's predecessor, from 1981-1986.

Gattaz sees German family-owned companies as a model for how to compete in a "virtuous cycle of globalisation," and defends Radiall's plants in China, India, Mexico and the United States.

It also has five sites in France, but to sell to companies such as Boeing and Apple, he explained: "If I did not have Mexico, I would be dead."

A big question as he takes over at MEDEF is how flexible Gattaz will be in negotiations with so-called social partners, essentially trade unions, as France struggles to reboot its industrial engine.

He has expressed strong opposition to France's 35-hour work week, lower retirement age, higher corporate taxes and public spending.

© 2013 AFP

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