Senior Vice President, Europe, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
May 15, 2017
On May 7, pro-business centrist Emmanuel Macron was elected President of France by a larger-than-expected margin of 66 – 34 percent. Yesterday, he was inaugurated as the new President of France in Paris’ Elysée Palace. However, he will not have much of a honeymoon period—Macron’s government will quickly face tough challenges as he strives to implement a major reform agenda to get France growing sustainably again.
Macron’s immediate priority will be next month’s legislative elections. Given that his En Marche! movement has zero MPs, he’ll either have to cobble together a majority or find a way to collaborate with both the center-right Republicans and the remnants of the center-left Socialist Party he left behind. Macron’s challenger, Marine Le Pen, is promising to be an active voice of dissent in the Parliament, and her Front National party could be well-placed to succeed in five years’ time if Macron fails in his efforts to jumpstart the French economy.
Macron’s victory resonated far beyond France’s borders. In Brussels, European leaders enthusiastically embraced Macron’s, pro-EU voice, and his call for reforms at home. At the same time, in both Brussels and Berlin, reactions to Macron’s ideas for governing the Eurozone and promoting internal financial transfers are uncertain. He’s advocating for a major leap forward in European integration when the politics of promoting Europe are not particularly popular. Chancellor Merkel seems likely to insist on Macron reforming France first before considering major changes in Germany’s European policy.
Across the Channel, Macron’s victory is a mixed bag for British Prime Minister Theresa May. On the one hand, Brexit will be easier to negotiate with a European Union that isn’t as divided as it might have been under a Le Pen presidency. On the other hand, Macron has promised to put the EU27’s needs ahead of any compromises with the UK. Still, he has called for a close and engaged partnership with the British, even paying a visit to No. 10 Downing Street in the weeks leading up to the election.
Macron’s victory is a positive development for the transatlantic relationship. He prioritizes strong relations with the U.S. and remains fully committed to NATO. He also has spoken positively about the opportunities from trade agreements with Canada and the United States, and has encouraged American companies and researchers to invest in a newly revitalized France which will reward innovation.
While his victory had been anticipated, global markets reacted positively to the news of Macron’s election. American and French business leaders have been calling for sharp reforms to France’s overregulated labor market for years, and thanks to President-elect Macron, they might finally get them.
The bottom line is that Macron won the vote while remaining staunchly pro-trade, pro-business, and pro-globalization, which is no small feat in the current environment. The business community’s support for his government will depend heavily on his success in securing much-needed economic reforms that will unleash growth, create jobs, and promote investment in the world’s sixth-largest economy.