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France is seriously trying to get rid of the biggest drag on its economy

  • France's rigid labor market will change in the next 3, 4 months, the former governor of the Bank of France told CNBC
  • Noyer suggested that others banks would follow HSBC's example and move personnel to Paris
Tens of thousands of the French workers protest as the Unions in France launch new strikes against the pension reform plan on October 28, 2010 in Marseille, France.
Patrick Aventurier | Getty Images
Tens of thousands of the French workers protest as the Unions in France launch new strikes against the pension reform plan on October 28, 2010 in Marseille, France.

Investors and international institutions often criticize France for its rigid labor market and how it's a drag on its economic performance. But that's about to change, the former governor of the Bank of France told CNBC.

"I frankly think that apart from the U.K., in three, four months from now, France will have the more flexible labor market in Europe," Christian Noyer, honorary governor of the French central bank told CNBC on the sidelines of the Europlace conference in Paris on Tuesday.

"That will be a great achievement, it's really a game changer," he added.

In the first hours of his presidency, Emmanuel Macron said he would push for a decentralization of collective bargaining to individual company level, so companies are more free to negotiate with their own workers. France's new premier, Edouard Philippe also vowed a summer of "intense consultations" with trade unions to pave the way for a labor market reform bill in September.

The government is trying to move rapidly on the issue that's long been described as the biggest drag on the French economy. However, the fight with the trade unions is not going to be easy. The leader of the largest French trade union told the Financial Times in May that the government should not hurry the reform and instead it should extend the consultation period to allow for a proper discussion.

However, the reform impetus in France has probably never been this high. Noyer described the recent measures to cancel the extension of tax on financial transactions and the scrapping of the highest bracket of payroll tax on bankers as "very good starts" to attract more business to France, mainly from the U.K. as the country prepares to leave the European Union.

"There was clearly a change of approach," Noyer said of the new French executive.

At the moment only one bank, HSBC, has fully committed to transfer 1,000 jobs from the City of London to Paris. Noyer described this figure as "misleading," suggesting that others banks would also be moving personnel to Paris.

He told CNBC that he is aware that many institutions will be using current EU-based offices where they already possess licenses to operate but will move their staff to different EU cities, including Paris. This could be the case for JPMorgan.

JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon said Tuesday that the bank will probably boost its Frankfurt-based office, given that it already has licenses to operate there but its staff could be moved to Paris, the Netherlands or even Madrid, Reuters reported.

Noyer noted that "the vast majority of the institutions are planning to put their trading room in Paris."

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