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France's Macron unveils mix of tax cuts, spending cuts in economic plans

PARIS (Reuters) - French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron on Thursday outlined his economic plans mixing tax cuts and a reduction in government jobs that would stick to France’s commitments to euro zone partners to cut its budget deficit.

Emmanuel Macron, candidate in France's 2017 French presidential election, delivers an address for French nationals in London, Britain, February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The former economy minister, one of the frontrunners in the April-May presidential race, had come under pressure to present a more detailed manifesto in recent weeks and sought to stay true to his vow to transcend the left-right divide.

“Unlike Francois Fillon, I don’t believe in a purge and in fixing the country against the people’s will,” Macron told Les Echos newspaper in an interview, referring to his main conservative rival in the election.

“And unlike Benoit Hamon, I don’t accept defeat on the jobs front,” he added, in reference to the Socialist candidate.

The 39-year old ex-banker said he would cut corporate tax to 25 percent from the current 33.3 percent over the next term and aimed to cut public sector headcount by 120,000.

Some 60 billion euros in public spending would be cut over the next five years should he be elected - less than the 100 billion euro shock-and-awe plan advocated by Fillon but a more ambitious target than the ruling Socialists’ current plan.

In a country blighted by an unemployment rate of 10 percent, Macron said he would make cutting it his priority and said bringing it down to 7 percent by 2022 appeared “reasonable”.

In a gesture of good will towards Germany, the European Union’s paymaster and its strongest economy, Macron said he would seek to show he is carrying out reforms to gain Berlin’s trust rather than confront it over deficit cuts.

“France must carry out structural reforms: it’s good for us and will reassure our partners, and chiefly Germany,” he said. “If we don’t have a brave plan of structural reforms, the Germans won’t follow us.”

Having done that, he would seek to get the euro zone to increase its joint investment capacity and set up a common budget.

Macron, who has never held elected office, was given a boost this week after an influential centrist decided to back him to defeat far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Leigh Thomas