PARIS - The man charged with reviving France's shrinking economy and attracting businesses to invest is gaining a reputation for doing the opposite.
As the country's first minister for industrial renewal, Arnaud Montebourg has told the world's largest steelmaker it is not welcome in France, exchanged angry letters with the head of an American tire company he was supposedly wooing, and scuttled Yahoo's offer to buy the majority of a video-sharing website.
Montebourg, 50, a lawyer from Burgundy, is the public face of President Francois Hollande's plan to revitalize Europe's second-largest economy, which is in recession and grappling with 11 percent unemployment. The plan is to make the French economy more competitive globally - especially for manufacturers - by making it easier to fire workers, offering a payroll-tax credit, and investing in small businesses.
Economists have praised the labor changes as a step in the right direction. But mostly they say France's economic plan is all wrong: It is too complicated; it favors a top-down approach to innovation; and it ignores some of the most serious problems plaguing France's economy, such as high labor costs.
And then there is Montebourg, whose public spats with international companies and efforts to block layoffs are making France look like an unappealing place to do business.
In fairness to Montebourg, he is not so much the problem as the symbol of it, analysts say. Even if Hollande were to replace him - and that is looking increasingly likely - it is not clear the substance of the industrial-renewal strategy would change.
The size of France's economy has cushioned it somewhat from the worst of Europe's debt crisis, which has brought depression-level unemployment to countries like Spain and Greece.
But make no mistake, analysts warn: The French economy, which had no growth in 2012 and shrank at an annualized rate of 0.8 percent in the first three months of 2013, is in slow-motion free fall.