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France hails Chinese battery factory for Renault in electric push

By AFP - Jun 28,2021 - Last updated at Jun 28,2021

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the workers during his visit to the site of the future factory of Japan-based battery maker Envision AESC group, where Renault SA develops an electric-vehicle manufacturing hub, in Douai, northern France, on Monday (AFP photo)

LAMBRES-LEZ-DOUAI, France — President Emmanuel Macron visited northern France on Monday to applaud plans for a Chinese-owned battery factory that will supply the automaker Renault as Europe steps up its shift toward electric vehicles.

The 2 billion-euro ($2.4 billion) project by China's Envision is being saluted as an example of Macron's efforts to encourage foreign firms to "Choose France" for investment, in particular in cutting-edge technologies.

"With this project, we're going to invest more than 200 million euros alongside the companies, investors and local governments," Macron told executives and local officials at the site.

"It's this united France, that knows how to work together... that will allow us to advance and win back our industry, win back our strength, and be both productive and fair," he said.

It will be the second so-called battery "gigafactory" in France, after the plant planned by rival automaker Stellantis and energy giant TotalEnergies.

Around 1,000 jobs will be created over the next three years by a project that aims to revive three Renault factories that have struggled for years.

The company hopes to build 500,000 vehicles annually at the sites by 2025.

"We see this as a win-win relationship between Renault, Envision and the French government," Envision's chief Lei Zhang said on Sunday.

"This wouldn't have been possible two years ago. It's the right time now thanks to the French recovery plan," he said.

Europe has been ramping up efforts to build gigafactories, with a report by Transport & Environment, a non-government organisation, showing there are some 40 projects so far.

Later on Monday, Macron, a former investment banker, was due to host his annual gathering of foreign executives at the Palace of Versailles, where 3.5 billion euros ($4.2 billion) of projects would be unveiled.

He will then attend Tuesday the inauguration of the Paris headquarters for the US bank JP Morgan, which will house its European market operations post-Brexit.

"France is organising and hosting the first major international business summit in 18 months," Trade Minister Franck Riester said.

“It's a sign of confidence from the participants in our country's future," he said.

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