Foreign Trade – Interview given by Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to Aujourd’hui en France/Le Parisien (excerpts - April 6, 2014)

Q. – During the last reshuffle, you inherited – besides foreign affairs – international development. What does that cover exactly?

THE MINISTER – The Quai d’Orsay [Foreign Ministry] will be responsible for diplomacy in general and for European affairs, development, French nationals abroad and Francophony. On top of that, foreign trade and tourism will now come within its remit. This will allow the state’s external action to be unified under the same authority. The goal is efficiency and coherence, benefiting in particular the economic recovery – a government priority.

Q. – But until now, foreign trade has come under Bercy [Economy Ministry]…

THE MINISTER – We’ll obviously work with the Economy Ministry. The duplication of the networks – Bercy and the Quai d’Orsay – has often been criticized in the past as a source of difficulties. We can’t talk about simplification all the time and not carry out reforms to that effect. Moreover, several of my predecessors and the Cour des Comptes [Auditor-General’s Department] recommended this. Look, just because our ambassadors are to spend more time on trade and tourism doesn’t mean they’ll have to spend less time on education, culture, science and strategy – France’s external action is a unified entity.

Q. – The trade deficit amounted to €60 billion in 2013. How can the negative spiral be halted?

THE MINISTER – It’s a fact that the trade deficit is too high. The key is to improve business competitiveness: this is the aim of the Responsibility Pact. The government obviously has no intention of usurping the role of businesses, but it can and must help them. Extending the range of our products by supporting research and innovation, improving the operation of the labour market, avoiding onerous taxes. Apart from all these general measures, we need targeted action to support our businesses on the international markets and to increase the number of our exporting businesses, particularly SMEs. This is the role of economic diplomacy, which is going to be ramped up. We also have to take action vis-à-vis our attractiveness, to attract more capital, entrepreneurs, tourists, students and researchers to France, in order to nurture our growth, and therefore jobs. (…)