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Industrial policy/aerospace industry/sale of Rafale fighter plane

Published on March 6, 2015
Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, during a visit to the Dassault Aviation site in Mérignac (excerpts)
Mérignac, March 4, 2015

Today we welcome the Rafale’s first export contract, to Egypt, which will be an absolutely decisive signal when it comes to winning other orders. (…)

Why is the Rafale appreciated so much? Because it’s an exceptional plane: it uses the most advanced technologies for the electric flight commands, for the multiple security systems and for the materials used.

It’s a plane which also has one characteristic: it’s flexible in its uses. It can – and this has been said by your chairman – be used for several functions. And it’s a fighter plane that has shown its effectiveness wherever it’s been used, when we had operations to conduct in the Sahel and still now over Iraq. And I remember Mali. It was thanks to the Rafale that we were able to stop the terrorists who were heading for Bamako to conquer a country that is our friend.

I also want to say that the negotiators – be they political leaders, administrative leaders or business leaders – were absolutely outstanding. You need a dose of patience, you have to control your impatience, and you also need perseverance, and that’s what was done.

As I was saying, with this success the Rafale has gained a new reputation, new recognition, and so today it’s a plane which has all the strengths needed to succeed in the international arena. Hence your pride, and hence our gathering here today. I wanted to come here, to the very place where the Rafale is assembled, to tell you what we all feel: huge joy when a contract is signed, and huge pride when it’s a product of this quality and with such exceptional technology.

So what lessons can we learn from this for French industry? The first lesson – and I’m talking here to a number of major manufacturers – is that industry, particularly the aerospace industry, belongs to a history, a tradition. (…)

Dassault is a great company: 12,000 employees, 9,000 in France, more than 10 sites, and you need great companies for there to be great industry. You also need small businesses that provide subcontracting. You need medium-sized businesses that will also enable this sharing of innovation, of skills; that’s what has been shown. (…)

The other lesson is that we in France need major industrial networks and that aerospace is one of the most brilliant ones. It’s a dynamic sector that secures a €23-billion trade surplus for France. That’s the biggest surplus in our entire economy, which explains why, whenever an Airbus or, soon, another Rafale is sold, there’s an immediate and substantial improvement in our trade balance.

Aerospace is an industry in full expansion. Some companies have order books that are full for five years, and so we must be very hopeful about what this industry will be able to generate in terms of growth and business.

There’s another lesson we must learn, namely that nothing is possible without a research and innovation effort. Innovation doesn’t only mean engineers. Every employee is part of this idea – this fine idea that it’s possible to invent, modify,

improve and imagine. And the aerospace industry devotes 20% of its jobs to R&D.
With the R&D tax credit, France, the state, has developed a powerful mechanism for large, medium-sized and small businesses. And it’s what enables us to make a difference, particularly in the industrial and aerospace field, and so investment is needed to that end. At the moment there are many signs indicating that the French economy is picking up again; the sale of the Rafale is one more. There are many signs suggesting that consumer spending is supporting demand, and what we need, in addition to consumer spending, is investment: investment to ensure there’s more business, more growth, more jobs, but investment also to prepare for the future – because we must also start thinking now about what the industry of the future will be.
In a few days’ time I’m going to launch the Factory of the Future plan, imagining the factories that will be built tomorrow, so that they can be the most successful, the most modern and the best at keeping pace with the technological, and particularly digital, revolution. And of the industrial plans that are going to be presented, the Factory of the Future plan will be the biggest. And once again, for that plan, I’ve met Dassault – not Dassault Aviation this time but Dassault Systèmes. And here in Mérignac, it’s been demonstrated to me that the two companies bear the same name because they can also converge in using the most impressive digital technologies.
So that’s what I came to tell you: there are moments when we’re all proud together, there’s a moment when success can be an example for others, and there are moments when you know the purpose of work, investment and effort. (…)./.

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