Economic diplomacy: a policy priority to support France’s economic recovery
"The Quai d’Orsay should also be, through all its tasks, the home of businesses". Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs on 9 April 2013, during the closure of the “Rencontres Quai d’Orsay – Entreprises" scheme.
Economic recovery is the Government’s priority. It requires a rebalancing of the current account, and thus results on markets abroad. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the second largest diplomatic network world wide. It can and must contribute. Economic diplomacy represents this contribution to the country’s collective effort and is thus an essential priority for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
French economic diplomacy, which is also ecological, aims to achieve three main complementary goals:
- support our companies on foreign markets;
- attract foreign investment to our country to create jobs;
- better adapt the European and international regulatory framework to our defensive and offensive economic interests.The promotion of France’s economic interests is traditionally one of the roles of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But economic diplomacy has not always managed to adapt its goals, resources and organization to make the economic issue a policy priority. It has thus had to adapt its organization to exacerbated international competition in a context of globalization where the level of international exposure has greatly increased. Amongst its diplomatic and consular staff, it has also developed the "economic reflex".
Given the importance and urgency of restoring our economy, and in particular our current account balance, an action plan dedicated to economic diplomacy is being implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in liaison with the other competent administrations.
This action plan for economic diplomacy was presented during the Conference of Ambassadors on 27 August 2012, where it was the key theme. The Minister of Foreign Affairs made public the progress of this action plan during an open day dedicated to businesses, the "Rencontres Quai d’Orsay – Entreprises", on 9 April 2013. This was the largest event ever organized by the Ministry for businesses (700 participants).
The action plan for economic diplomacy has ten focuses and as many concrete examples, translating the three aforementioned goals:
Focus 1: the Business and the Global Economy Directorate
This new Directorate was established on 1 March 2013.
Seven special representatives contribute to boosting the dynamism of economic relations with key countries: Algeria, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Regional ambassadors are appointed to promote contacts between regions and their businesses on the one hand and the diplomatic network on the other.
Focus 2: increased mobilization of the network abroad
Embassy action plans must now include an increased economic aspect, specifying their goals in this field. Thirty target countries have been identified to begin with.
Economic councils are established in embassies, which bring together government departments and businesses.
International volunteers in administration will increase the effort made by chambers of commerce in ten key countries.
A new strategy is being drawn up for European and international organization tendering.
Focus 3: ministerial visits with an economic dimension
The Minister visited Colombia, Panama and Peru in February 2013 for example, as well as Central Asia in March the same year.
Focus 4: promotion of French innovation
The ties between competitiveness clusters and the network are strengthened to support their outreach on foreign markets. Ten international technical experts will be appointed within foreign "clusters" to relay the efforts made by their French counterparts.
Beyond scientific watch, the network will step up its efforts to make innovative projects by French companies better known worldwide.
Focus 5: attracting foreign investment to France
Embassies participate in efforts for prospection and promotion of foreign investment in France.
Focus 6: mobilizing soft power tools
Grants for foreign students trained in France are targeted towards high-potential countries, taking into account the disciplines which correspond to French economic interests.
The cultural network contributes to developing the "French brand".
Focus 7: visas
Visa policy is also perceived as a lever for attractiveness.
Instructions are given to promote and simplify procedures to obtain short-stay visas for certain stakeholders of bilateral relations, including businesspeople and potential investors, foreign students and tourists.
Partnerships with businesses, chambers of commerce and universities are forged in order to simplify the procedures concerning them.
Focus 8: support for expatriation
The creation of a "Grand Voyageur" passport aims to simplify administrative procedures for businesspeople.
It comes with the negotiation of additional international conventions to facilitate expatriation.
In Parallel, the Maison des français à l’étranger (Centre for French Nationals Abroad) provides French nationals with a public service to support expatriation and reintegration in France.
Focus 9: better communication with businesses
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received businesses during an open day, the "Rencontres Quai d’Orsay – Entreprises" on 9 April 2013, the largest event ever organized by the Quai d’Orsay for businesses (700 participants).
Focus 10: Ministry staff
Training modules on economic and trade issues are being stepped up.
Candidates with economic profiles are sought after, particularly from backgrounds of academic economics and business schools.
The presence of diplomats in businesses will be encouraged and developed.