France open to Emirati investments in nuclear, AI, minister says

FILE PHOTO: Visit of Renault Sandouville plant in Normandy

By Alexander Cornwell

ABU DHABI (Reuters) -France is open to the United Arab Emirates investing in its nuclear power and artificial intelligence industries, its finance minister said on Tuesday, ahead of signing a strategic partnership with the Gulf state on AI.

The Gulf state has emerged as a major investor in artificial intelligence while sources have told Reuters that oil rich Abu Dhabi wants to invest in Europe's nuclear power industry.

French Finance Minister Bruno le Maire told reporters that France would welcome Emirati investments into its nuclear industry such as in nuclear fuel specialist Orano, which the government majority owns.

"We are open to that kind of cooperation," he said in Abu Dhabi's financial district ahead of signing the partnership, adding that he would discuss it in meetings with UAE officials.

Le Maire was due to meet Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the chairman of state Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp and managing director of Abu Dhabi government-controlled fund Mubadala. He was also to meet with Sultan Al Jaber, minister of industry and advanced technology and chief executive of state oil firm Adnoc.

France is providing tens of billions of euros for state-controlled energy provider EDF to build six new reactors.

Emirates Nuclear Energy is interested in building up a portfolio of minority investments in European nuclear power infrastructure, sources previously said.

The Gulf state has since 2021 operated its own nuclear power plant, which was built by South Korea, and sources have said Abu Dhabi is planning to soon tender for four new reactors.

Le Maire said France would be willing to provide assistance if UAE expanded its nuclear infrastructure.

France also would welcome Emirati investments in artificial intelligence, he said, adding that Paris wanted to work closely with Abu Dhabi on semiconductors and computer chip capabilities.

Abu Dhabi state-controlled fund Mubadala is the majority shareholder in chipmaker GlobalFoundaries, which is building a semiconductor facility in France with STMicroelectronics.

Le Maire said France and the UAE could jointly invest in cloud computing and data processing and that the strategic partnership would see more scientists and researchers at the Abu Dhabi campus of the Paris Sorbonne.

UAE investments in AI drew scrutiny from the United States over the Gulf state's ties with China and concerns sophisticated American technology and capabilities could be acquired by Chinese companies partnering with the UAE.

However, the UAE this year agreed with the United States to limit its technology cooperation with China in exchange for better access to American technology and capabilities.

Le Maire said France's partnership with the UAE would be based on the idea of sovereignty, meaning that key technologies and the skills must remain with those nations that develop it.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot)