“Lets you, and me, and all your money that’s in all our banks talk.”
– a hypothetical French prospectus
With its economy struggling like many others in the European Union, France is in bad need of foreign investment. And it’d like it to be in cash. And it’s already got that cash.
In what even by diplomatic standards seems to be an incredibly cynical effort, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg have headed to Libya to announce that they are “ready” to start releasing some seized Libyan assets to the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, and that they think it’d be swell if that sovereign wealth fund invested those assets in French businesses.
“France is committed through me to immediately begin unfreezing the funds of the Libyan Investment Authority estimated at $1.865 billion,” Fabius told Libya’s parliament, while Montebourg pointed out France can get them a really good deal on a refinery in Normandy.
All told France seized $8-$9 billion in Libyan assets last year, and has only given Libya $1.8 billion so far. The addition $5 billion or so above and beyond what was given was not mentioned, likely because France didn’t have anything juicy to sell them for that part of the money yet.
Putting aside the implied shakedown going on here, it would seem like Libya, which was pounded with airstrikes by France and other NATO members just a year ago, would have a lot of other uses for that money other than buying Norman oil refineries. With Libya’s oil-rich economy looking to rebound and the French economy staggering along at an estimated 0.3 percent annual growth, it seems like the sovereign wealth fund would also find their own nation a better return on investment.