PARIS - Visitors to France should be allowed to shop till they drop seven days a week, the country's Foreign Minister said Tuesday, weighing into a fierce debate over restrictions on Sunday trading.
"Tourism is an absolutely key sector in France: seven per cent of jobs, with considerable room for growth," Laurent Fabius told RTL radio.
Fabius, who now handles the trade and tourism portfolios following a government reshuffle, added: "The tourist who comes on a Sunday and goes to a store that is shut is not going to come back on Thursday.
"For tourists, shops must be open (on Sundays)," he added, saying workers would be duly compensated.
Retailers in France can only open on a Sunday under very specific conditions and recent court rulings have forced some flagship stores on the Champs Elysees in Paris to close their doors on the traditional day of rest.
The rulings were the result of legal action taken by trade unions in defence of the principle that Sunday working should be exceptional rather than the rule.
But they infuriated those employees who want the extra hours and higher pay that come with working on Sundays.
The issue is part of a broader debate about France's competitiveness and a perceived lack of flexibility in its labour market which some say hinders job creation.
A parallel legal battle over the right of DIY stores to open on Sunday was resolved by the Socialist government deciding to allow them to keep doing so until mid-2015, to allow time for a revamp of the law.