During the committee examination of a Senate report on the network of economic services abroad, Senator Roger Karoutchi (LR – Hauts-de-Seine), a former ambassador to the OECD said, “The more time goes by, the less a diplomatic presence makes sense. Heads of state and ministers call one another directly. We will have to ask one day if we shouldn’t create an ambassador corps trained according to the Bercy model, with ambassadors sent to the posts that are the most economically interesting for France. It is absurd to appoint ambassadors with no economic training to the major countries with which we have important ties.” What is the reaction to this statement at the Quai d’Orsay?
The report you mention is currently being studied at the Ministry.
The mission of our ambassadors is diverse and multifaceted. As part of their job representing France in their country of residence and at international organizations, they promote our interests and values, help resolve regional and global crises, and exercise soft power in areas as different as business, culture and security through precise analyses and expansive contacts. They protect French interests and citizens abroad. In that regard, they are responsible for coordinating all the sections under their authority, including economic interest sections.
Economic diplomacy has been inseparable from diplomatic and consular actions from the outset, as reflected today by the efforts of our consuls-general around the world at the most local levels. Our ambassadors devote more than a third of their time to promoting France’s economic interests, with support from the Department of Economic Diplomacy and such entities as Business France and Atout France. The Foreign Ministry created a Department of Economic Affairs as far back as 1923. The Ministry has jurisdiction over foreign trade and tourism; tourism alone represents more than 8% of France’s GDP and accounts for 2 million jobs and 300,000 businesses.
Economic diplomacy is a priority that has been reaffirmed by the Government and carried forward by Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian; Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness; and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State for Tourism, French Nationals Abroad and Francophonie, the latter two being attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
French economic diplomacy has several goals:
- supporting our businesses on foreign markets
- attracting foreign investors who create jobs to France
- adapting European and international regulatory frameworks to suit our economic interests.
Since 2012, the Ministry has stepped up its efforts on economic diplomacy. Ambassadors are surrounded by economic advisors and they identify and monitor priority issues for economic diplomacy – the Ministry has designated five overarching categories for private sector exports so that industries working in partnership with the Ministry can join together in sector-specific offerings aimed at foreign markets. Finally, the Minister’s special representatives for economic diplomacy have been appointed to expand our bilateral economic relations with key partners.
Our ambassadors, who receive similar training to all senior government civil servants, use their diplomatic and negotiating skills to promote France’s economic interests. The commitment of our diplomatic and consular posts enabled us to maintain France’s position as the most attractive European country for international investors during the difficult climate created by the Covid-19 pandemic.