Jean Arthuis was born on 7 October 1944 in Saint-Martin-du-Bois (Maine-et-Loire) and graduated from the École supérieure de commerce in Nantes (Nantes business school) and the Institut d’études politiques (Institute of political studies) in Paris.
He is a chartered accountant and founder of a firm specialising in accountancy and handling financial hearings.
He was a member of the Senate from 1983 to 2014, served as general rapporteur for the budget from 1992 to 1995, chaired the Centrist Group from 1998 to 2002 and the Finance Committee from 2002 to 2011 and was mayor of Château-Gontier from 1971 to 2001. He was also President of the Conseil général de la Mayenne (Mayenne regional council) from 1992 to 2014, a post which he relinquished in order to devote himself fully to his mandate as MEP. He served as secretary of state to the labour minister from March 1986 and from January 1987 to the Minister for the economy, finance and privatisation, with responsibility for consumer affairs and competition (until May 1988).
He was Minister for the economy and finance from 1995 to 1997, during which time he laid the groundwork for the changeover to the single European currency. In 2011 he was asked by the prime minister, François Fillon to examine the future of the euro zone. His report, entitled The future of the euro zone: political integration or chaos, was published in March 2012.