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Protests in France unsettle transportation, petrochemicals in advance of K

Final preparations for K can be a daunting task in and of themselves, but French firms readying to attend the 2010 edition struggled with the additional burden of nation-wide protests of pension reform that dried up gas stations, blocked roads, shut down petrochemical plants, and froze mass transit throughout France.

Final preparations for K can be a daunting task in and of themselves, but French firms readying to attend the 2010 edition struggled with the additional burden of nation-wide protests of pension reform that dried up gas stations, blocked roads, shut down petrochemical plants, and froze mass transit throughout France. The French agency for international business development, UBIFRANCE, is hosting 70 French companies at its national pavilion, with firms exhibiting in halls 1, 3, 5, and 8a, and all those companies and their traveling staff likely impacted in some way by national unrest stemming from a proposal to lift the retirement age from 60 to 62.

Independent versions of the legislation have already passed both houses of French parliament, with the bodies expected to vote on a harmonized bill this week. In the time since debate on the reforms began, the country has seen organized strikes impact a range of services and industries. France24 reported that public transport across France remained affected, with a minimum level of service running on most lines. A strike by air-traffic controllers was impacting in-country and intra-European flights, although international travel from outside the continent continued as normal.

French authorities reported on Monday, Oct. 25, that the strikes had a preliminary price tag of up to €3 billion, with Finance Minister Christine Lagarde telling radio Europe 1 the unrest was costing the economy between €200 and €400 million per day. At the time, she noted that the petrochemical industry in particular was "suffering." By Monday, all of France's fuel distribution depots had been cleared of blockades, offering some relief, but around 70 ships remained at sea off the port of Marseille, with strikes ongoing at 12 of the country's oil refineries.

UBIFRANCE estimates that France generates annual sales of plastics-and-rubber products of €30 billion, making it one of the top five plastics exporting countries worldwide and second only to Germany in Europe. All told, France has 3750 companies involved in the plastics sector, according to UBIFRANCE, exporting €6.7 billion worth of goods annually. 

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