ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Trying to sell France to Emirati investors Monday, France's finance minister highlighted what he described as the business-friendly overhaul of President Emmanuel Macron — while sidestepping ongoing protests back home over a planned pension overhaul.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire's trip to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates' capital, comes as over 1 million people marched days earlier to protest a plan by Macron's government to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64.
More marches are planned for Tuesday, with labor unions already uniting against the proposal affecting state pension system that all retirees can access.
Le Maire offered a rosy outlook for the changes already put in place by Macron's government while speaking to those gathered at the Abu Dhabi Global Market. Speaking later to journalists, Le Maire stressed that France was a democracy and protests were a right of the people.
“You know, when you are taking strong decisions, you can expect strong reactions,” he said. "If you want this pension system based on solidarity to be efficient for the next decade, you need to introduce a reform and you need to guarantee the financial balance of the system.”
He also supported the UAE's selection of Sultan al-Jaber to lead the upcoming United Nations COP28 climate talks that will start in November in Dubai. The UAE, a major oil producer and OPEC member, has come under fire from activists for nominating al-Jaber, the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.
However, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and others have backed al-Jaber's selection, pointing in part to his work on renewable projects.
“Don’t misunderstand the challenge of the COP28. The challenge of the COP28 is not to know who is in charge of the COP,” Le Maire said. “The key challenge of COP28 is the reserves, the concrete decisions.”
He added: "All the talks I’ve had here with the CEO of ADNOC, with the members of the government of the UAE, prove to me that they really want to come to a final outcome, which will be a very positive and strong one.”
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