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New French economy minister pledges end to infighting

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin (R) and newly-appointed Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron arrive at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris for a weekly cabinet meeting, August 27, 2014. (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

PARIS: France's new economy minister vowed Wednesday to rebuild trust in the euro zone's second largest economy and put an end to mixed messages and infighting on its economic policy.

Speaking a day after President Francois Hollande named him to replace maverick, anti-globalization leftist Arnaud Montebourg, 36-year-old former investment banker Emmanuel Macron sought to reassure that he would form a close-knit partnership with Finance Minister Michel Sapin.

"We will fight, but we will not fight against those in our own camp, we won't fight against part of the French people, we will fight with all the energy we have," Hollande's former top economic adviser said at a handover ceremony with Montebourg.

Macron, a former Rothschild banker who was seen as the corporate world's ear at Hollande's office until he stepped down from the role this year, pledged to try and rebuild trust in France among investors and the French themselves.

Economists have welcomed Macron's nomination, seen as a sign Hollande will press ahead with a pro-business policy decided earlier this year to cut corporate taxes by 40 billion euros to lift the economy out of stagnation while trimming the deficit.

Montebourg was evicted Monday for lashing out against that economic strategy - which Macron helped craft. Montebourg's main complaint was that deficit-cutting measures are likely to kill off recovery hopes and unfairly hit society's poor.

"This is a change of personnel, almost a change of generation, a change of style," Sapin, whose efforts to reassure France's EU partners were often undermined by Montebourg's public statements, told France Inter.

"Above all, there is a complete consistency that Montebourg didn't have ... With Macron you know where you are going."

Hollande is the most unpopular president in polling history and surveys show voters do not trust him to kick-start the eurozone's second largest economy, where growth was zero in the first half of this year.

Business leaders had long complained that protectionist, anti-austerity Montebourg was sending confusing messages about the government's policies. Macron said he would work to boost France's industry, without "pointless quarrels."

 

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