“The United Arab Emirates are not at all happy because Qataris have a better tax treatment,” said Nathalie Goulet, a centrist senator from Lower Normandy, who spoke to UAE officials during a fact-finding mission to the Arab Gulf earlier this year. She finds the French concessions “extravagant” and says the fact that Qatar’s neighbours are complaining is a sign the treaty is wrong.
The Champs-Elysees lures millions of tourists every year to enjoy shopping at the Elysees 26 mall, poker at the Aviation Club, plush cars and futuristic architecture in the Citroen showroom, or feather-clad showgirls at the Lido cabaret.
But for all their Parisian charisma, none of these attractions are French-owned. They belong to the royal family of Qatar, a resource-rich emirate about 5,000km away.
Some Muslims may frown on investments in gambling, alcohol and high-kicking dancers, but over the past few decades the buildings have helped bolster Qatar’s global portfolio of trophy assets, including London’s Harrods and Singapore’s Raffles Hotel.
The latest French addition was a chain of upscale malls under the Printemps banner, bought by a fund controlled by Qatari royals in August for 1.7 billion euros ($2.23 billion).
For oil-rich royalty from the Arab Gulf, part of the attraction of the United Kingdom has been the fact it charges no taxes on profits foreign investors make when they sell real estate.
Five years ago, Qatar sealed a similar agreement with France. The treaty was agreed by former center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008, and is one of the most generous Qatar has secured, exempting Qatari investors from taxes on the profits they make when they sell properties.
In a country where 3.6 million people lack decent housing, according to French charity Abbe Pierre, that is controversial.
Article continued on next page...