Twenty-second Ambassadors’ Conference/France’s attractiveness
More generally, I wanted to attach great importance – despite the serious circumstances we’re experiencing (I’m talking about the international political situation) – to the issue of attractiveness. We must increase the number of decisions for job-creating investment in France. This, too, is a task you have to fulfill: not just attracting companies so they go to countries who are friends, to develop a flow of trade, but also to spark an interest in France, in investing in France, in the countries where you are.
Laurent Fabius, along with the Interior Minister, has ensured that it’s easier for us to issue visas to investors, entrepreneurs, students and researchers etc., because it was, after all, paradoxical: we wanted people to come, but we didn’t allow them to – which is complicated for investing, except if it’s done online, but this hasn’t always produced the results anticipated…
In the same way, tourism has become a source of attractiveness for us.
It’s the very principle, the very symbol of the attractiveness which makes people want to come to us. We are the world’s leading tourist destination. It flatters our pride… But we aren’t the country with the greatest surplus on its tourism balance. This goes against what we’re used to… We must ensure we can offer products and amenities, and be as welcoming as possible, because if people are made to feel unwelcome, there’s no reason for coming to see us. This begins – and Laurent Fabius has experience of this himself – at the airport.
We’re not going to make ambassadors go to stations to act as meeters and greeters… although we’ll do this if necessary! What we must ensure is that all the economic players actively pursue that ambition. I gave a figure: tourism accounts for 7% of GDP, that’s two million jobs; [but] since we are the world’s most beautiful country, we see that we have a lot of progress to make. We’ll do this with culture.
Culture isn’t a form of French excellence that we’re obsequiously proposing to the world with the objective of ensuring that our language can be spoken without making an effort to ensure that this will be the case. Culture isn’t just a vehicle for exerting influence, or for sharing, it’s also a vehicle for economic development. As everyone can see, the battle of the cultural industry is about to take place and operators will start offering their products this autumn. We can put up barriers, erect a cordon sanitaire in the cultural field, but it’s a losing battle. What we need to do is be the best, while defending the cultural exception. That’s what we’re going to do in all international negotiations.
We must make the cultural industry a key priority in the same way as the international development of our universities, our grandes écoles (1) is, because we have to enable more young French people to discover the world. We have nothing to fear when some of our young graduates go abroad – it’s the opposite that would be harmful – provided of course that they return and share their talent with their own country, which educated them. We should never forget who educated us, because we are nothing without the Republic!
And then there’s the hosting of foreign students in France. Here too, we have to ensure that more foreign students are accepted, since our own influence depends on this.
Francophony is how we exert our influence. Jacques Attali has just given me a report that highlights what a huge economic strength Francophony could be. I want the economic dimension of Francophony to feature in the next OIF (2) summit in Dakar in November.
INTERNATIONAL BODIES/FINANCIAL REGULATION
Lastly, defending France’s place in the world also involves arguing in the major decision-making bodies, notably the G20, for higher and more balanced growth. That’s what we will do in Australia, in Brisbane. We will continue to put financial regulation and international tax cooperation on the agenda; some progress has been made.
Don’t think that we are alone in this struggle. The United States and even a country like the United Kingdom have provided support, because it’s in everyone’s interest to ensure that black or grey financial activities are eradicated and that the tax conditions for competition are specified. (…)./.
(1) prestigious higher education institutes with competitive entrance examinations.
(2) Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), an international Francophone organization.