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Saudi Arabia/Franco-Saudi business forum

Published on October 21, 2015
Closing speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)

Riyadh, October 13, 2015

I’d like to begin by warmly thanking a number of key figures – His Majesty the King, of course, and the Saudi authorities, who have given us a tremendously warm welcome. I want to thank my neighbours and friends, the Minister of Commerce and Industry and my friend the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whom we’re very pleased to see here for the conclusion of this forum. I’d also like to thank the co-chairs of the forum,
M. Jean-Louis Chaussade and Mr Bin Laden. I want to thank all the Saudi entrepreneurs and French entrepreneurs; I’ve been told more than 1,000 of you have passed through this magnificent hall over the past two days. And you’ll also allow me – everyone will understand this, I’m sure – to say a special thanks to Ambassador Besancenot, because I know he’s done an outstanding job along with his team, and on behalf of you all I want to thank him.

This forum is unquestionably a success because of the discussions held, the contacts established and the signatures provided.

Why this success? There are a whole series of causes: the first is that a strategic partnership between the Kingdom and France has been decided on by our two heads of state. Of course, our relations are long-standing, but two or three years ago they took on a new, and it could be said more sustained, form. And the fact that – I was talking about this again to my colleague and friend the Minister of Foreign Affairs – on most of the major subjects Saudi Arabia and France have identical positions,
particularly on subjects concerning the region, is clearly a powerful catalyst to boost what we can do in the economic sphere. That’s the first reason.

The second reason is that many large businesses have been present for a long time; I want to welcome them. They’ve remained here, and I think we must pay tribute to them. The new element that must be emphasized is that Small and Medium-sized Enterprises have now joined them, and that’s an encouraging sign. Just as outside the traditional sectors where there’s partnership between Saudi Arabia and France, there are new sectors that have opened up, through the work we’ve done on the joint commission chaired, on the Saudi side, by Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and by me on the French side. The fact that there are new businesses and new sectors is extremely encouraging.

I also want to welcome the fact that French investments here are developing and that – this is new – because of the decisions we’ve taken this morning, Saudi investments in France are going to develop, not only in traditional sectors like property but also in more directly productive sectors; that’s extremely promising for the future.

I want to conclude these brief remarks by saying to you that quite obviously, because there’s a second forum between French and Saudi entrepreneurs, there will be a third forum which we’re going to prepare.

In the meantime, we’re going to continue our relationship of intergovernmental partnership within this committee. It’s an original set-up. We meet every six months, which enables us to take stock at the highest level, see what’s making progress and what hasn’t made sufficient progress, and correct some trends… You see how far the strategic partnership can go. (…)

So I was saying that, in addition of course to the business relations that are developing, and that’s excellent, we have this joint committee that meets every six months – the next meeting will be held in Paris in March –, which enables us to have the review clauses, to be proactive, and there’s no contradiction of course between what’s being done between the two governments and what’s being done between business circles, because it’s all heading in the same direction.

I’ll finish by saying that one of the features that has struck me most is that the Saudi economy is diversifying and that we have a lot of things to do together on new technologies, including in traditional sectors, because new technologies penetrate everywhere.

I may be especially aware of these issues because, in a few weeks’ time, I’m going to chair the much-talked-about COP21, the Paris Climate Conference, but I think that with Saudi Arabia’s traditional strengths, with its new diversification, with France’s traditional strengths and its new businesses, we have an extraordinary partnership opening up before us. So when there’s not only political agreement but also strategic will and entrepreneurs present, everything is in place for success.

I want – and this will be my last point – to thank our hosts again, congratulate you all and tell you that, in this economic diplomacy we practise, the partnership between Saudi Arabia and France is one of the most fruitful and most useful./.

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