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Macron for French president? Here's why businesses want him

As speculation mounts over who run for the French presidency and whether the former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron could throw his hat into the ring, business leaders told CNBC whoever the next leader of France might be, they will need to get real about the French economy and its need for reform.

"France needs to do a significant amount of reforms, we have not done enough," Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, the chief executive of chemical maker Solvay told CNBC.

"In the previous presidential campaign, the subject of reforms was not at the heart of discussions and I hope this campaign will create opportunities for candidates to explain what they want to do in terms of reforms," he said, speaking Tuesday to CNBC on the sidelines of a forum of the French business association, Medef.

"If you are elected after a campaign of being positive and say everything fine, it can't work," he said.


Miguel Medina | AFP | Getty Images

Clamadieu's comments come as speculation over the next president mounts. The incumbent, Francois Hollande, has seen his approval ratings drop since taking office in 2012 and has said he would not re-run for office unless he could improve France's stubborn unemployment rate.

The business community in particular has felt attacked by some of his Socialist Party's policies, such as a proposal to introduce a 75 percent "super tax" rate on high earners (which was quietly shelved by the government), and has felt that attempts to reform the economy and labor market, such as scrapping the 35-hour working week and making it easier for businesses to both hire and fire, have been contentious and slow in coming to fruition.

At the same time, France has seen a rise in support for ultra right-wing parties such as the Front National and a shift back to the mainstream center-right; Former president Nicolas Sarkozy recently announced his candidacy for the 2017 presidential election although he faces an opponent from his own side.

And on Tuesday, Socialist politician and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron announced that he was resigning from the post, prompting speculation that he could become a presidential candidate. Earlier this year Macron set up his own political movement, En Marche, raising eyebrows in the Socialist party.

Macron could be a popular choice for the business community, having challenged the 35-hour working week and having been outspoken about France's lack of competitiveness hindering growth.

Pierre Gattaz, president of Medef, told CNBC that the next president needed to explain to French business how he or she would help the community.

"We want these candidates to have a vision of France for the next 10 years then to tell us that the most important thing is to have a business community and business-friendly country. Then they need to tell us the three, four, five most important reforms that they're going to do in order to restore trust in the business (world), tax reforms and the simplification of legislation, this is what we want to hear from them," he said on Wednesday, speaking to CNBC at Medef.

Gattaz thought Macron was an interesting candidate, saying that understood the business world. "He knows business and this is a fundamental asset," Gattaz said. "Business is so important for the economy and growth."

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