January 22, 2018 / 2:16 PM / 7 months ago

With Versailles business summit, Macron seeks to bank on global appeal

* Macron holds Versailles summit two days before Davos gathering

* Toyota, Facebook, others announce new investments in France

* Investments come as French firms lose global market share

By Michel Rose

PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron sought on Monday to show that his activity on the world stage and his pro-business reforms were bearing fruit with a highly-publicised summit of global CEOs in Versailles and a flurry of investment announcements.

A 300 million euro ($368 million) investment by Japanese carmaker Toyota to increase capacity at its northern French plant producing the Yaris model was set to be the centrepiece of the day, with 800 new jobs to be added by 2020.

Smaller but “emblematic” investment projects would also be unveiled, Macron’s office said, including new research centres by digital giants and new factories in the agrobusiness.

Facebook, whose chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg was to meet Macron in Versailles, said on Monday it would double the number of staff at its Paris artificial intelligence hub.

“Showcasing these projects will create a snowball effect,” a presidential adviser said.

Eight months into his presidency, Macron is keen to convince the French that the tax cuts he is providing to corporates and millionaires are not a giveaway to the rich but can yield higher investment and curb an unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent.

Some 140 of the world’s most powerful business executives are expected at the gilded Palace of Versailles on Monday afternoon, where they will “speed date” with French ministers and be joined by Macron in the evening.

The summit dubbed “Choose France” is held just two days before Macron heads to the global elite’s annual gathering at Davos, making sure the event catches the top executives on their way to the Swiss Alps.

If the list of attendees - including Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein and Google’s Sundar Pichai - is a sign of the 40-year old leader’s pulling power, it is also a reminder of France’s more pressing need for foreign investment to reduce a trade deficit of almost 50 billion euros.

In a study published last week, the COE-Rexecode think-tank said French companies had continued to lose market share to their euro zone rivals on global markets, with French goods and services accounting for 12.9 percent of the bloc’s exports last year, down from 13.2 percent in 2016 and 17 percent in 2000.

In 2016, France was the 16th highest recipient of foreign direct investments in the world, UN data showed, with $28 billion, well below Europe’s top two inflow hosts, Britain and the Netherlands, with $254 billion and $92 billion respectively. (Reporting by Michel Rose; additional reporting by Marine Pennetier; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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