On March 25, Pierre Sellal, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, welcomed Bark Tae-ho, Korea’s Trade Minister, and Amina Mohamed, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and Kenya’s former Ambassador to the World Trade Organization. Both are candidates for the position of WTO Director-General.
Making economic diplomacy a priority – Action plan for the Quai d’Orsay
Economic recovery is France’s top priority, and the solution lies in international development. As the deck of economic cards is reshuffled in a globalised world, power largely goes hand in hand with economic strength. France must come to terms with economic diplomacy as a key factor for influence and growth. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs(French Ministry of Foreign Affairs) has a decisive contribution to make here. Economic diplomacy is therefore to become a key priority for the Quai d’Orsay.
Our economic diplomacy, which is also ecological, will pursue two complementary aims: supporting our businesses on international markets, and attracting foreign investment that will create jobs in France.
Promoting the nation’s economic interests is one of the MAE’s missions already, at both central government level and through our network of embassies. The readiness of those embassies and their services to respond when called upon is universally recognised. Caught up as it is in traditional concerns and a succession of crises, however, France’s diplomacy has not always been able to tailor its aims, resources and organisation to make economic issues a priority. As yet, the "economic reflex" is not sufficiently established.
Our export support system is still too fragmented, too complex for businesses to read – especially SMEs and intermediate-sized enterprises (ETIs) – and not always efficient enough: our ambassadors, our network of foreign trade advisors, the Ubifrance agency for international business development, COFACE for export credit insurance, the Invest in France Agency (IFA) for foreign investments, OSEO for innovation and the Chambers of Commerce all carry out their missions to the very best of their ability, but the synergies between these various resources are not yet fully engaged. We must turn our attention more towards exploiting reservoirs of growth (the BRICS countries in particular) and local canvassing, on their doorstep, of foreign groups and individuals likely to invest in France.
It is also frequently the case that greater attention is paid to major contracts than to less high-profile affairs of trade, and more support is provided to big business than to SMEs and ETIs – although these will benefit, starting next year, from international initiatives by the Public Investment Bank (BPI). Regional initiatives lack sufficient coordination. The central issue of the links between maintaining and even developing the domestic base of French businesses and their presence abroad has yet to be clearly identified. Finally, the importance of foreign investment to the domestic economy is sometimes underestimated and, at European level, the principle of reciprocity of trade between the EU and the rest of the world is still not sufficiently upheld.
Clearly, government action is no substitute for that of businesses themselves, and many ministerial departments in addition to those of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs are also involved in this action.
Clearly, too, our competitiveness depends on a number of factors and must be addressed without taboos (see the report by Louis Gallois). Given the scale and the urgency of the need to pursue economic recovery, however, and in particular to redress our trade balance, a specific action plan for the Quai d’Orsay, in liaison with the other government departments concerned, is essential.
Economic and ecological diplomacy was the central theme of the Ambassadors’ Conference held on 27 August at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which opened with an address by the President of the Republic. The action plan for economic diplomacy presented by the Minister features nine main proposals.
Nine proposals for our economic diplomacy
1. Make support for French businesses abroad, in particular our SMEs and ETIs, and the promotion of France as a destination for foreign investment a standing and priority instruction for our diplomatic network.
2. Set up at the Quai d’Orsay a Directorate specifically dedicated to supporting businesses (including large groups but also SMEs and ETIs) and to economic affairs.
3. Position the ambassador at the head of the "French export team", bringing together under his or her authority all the public structures responsible for providing international support for businesses, and simplifying those structures as necessary. An Economic Council will be set up in support of each ambassador in all main posts.
4. Within each diplomatic post dealing with regulatory or standards issues (particularly at EU level and during the negotiation of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements), establish simple procedures for businesses to set out their expectations, concerns and interests both before and during such negotiations. In European and international negotiations, the principle of reciprocity will be systematically upheld.
5. Reinforce the economic component of ministerial visits and meetings.
6. Develop links between our tools of soft power (higher education for foreign students, scholarship grants, the network of French schools abroad, the Institut Français, etc.) and promotion of our economic interests.
7. Appoint figures of international stature to accompany our diplomacy in certain key countries.
8. Reinforce the economic component of training for our diplomats and encourage profiles with economic skills, particularly in the fields of exports, SME-specific issues and innovation.
9. Open the doors of the Quai d’Orsay to businesses and develop regular dialogue with the economic and social partners (annual "Quai d’Orsay Open Day", messages to business at press briefings, publication of economic information on Ministry websites and social networks, etc.).
All of these measures will be introduced within the next three months and, where necessary, developed further in consultation with the partners concerned.
Updated on 14.02.13
In this section
- Trade and global issues
- Putting foreign trade back in the service of employment - Excerpts from the communiqué issued following the Council of Ministers’ meeting (12.09.12)
- France’s action to promote innovation
- A favourable environment for innovation
- International promotion of innovative projects
- Investing in France
- Ile-de-France proves popular with foreign entrepreneurs
- Foreign investors: France remains on course
- WTO – Selection process for future Director-General – Visit by Amina Mohamed and Bark Tae-ho (25.03.13)
- WTO – Process of selecting the new director-general – Visit by Anabel Gonzàlez, Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica (19.03.13)
- WTO – Process of selecting the new director-general (06.03.13)
- Economic diplomacy – Creation of the new Directorate for Businesses and Global Economy (01.03.13)