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Victorin Lurel

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Diplomacy

The French Connection

Minister, Overseas France

Bio

After obtaining a degree in Economy from the University of Paris II, Victorin Lurel became Deputy of the Regional Council of the French overseas department of Guadeloupe in 2002, and was promoted to President in 2004. In this position, he worked toward the modernization of the economy of Guadeloupe and aimed to consolidate the traditional sectors. His term as President of the Regional Council was renewed in 2010. He has been Minister of Overseas France since May 2012, becoming part of Jean-Marc Ayrault’s cabinet.

"In many aspects, the Dominican Republic is emerging and France has every wish to support its development."

How can French investors take better advantage of the Dominican Republic’s geostrategic positioning and its trade agreements with the US, Europe, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and Central America?

The economic relationship between France and the Dominican Republic, the second largest economy in the Caribbean after Puerto Rico, has undergone remarkable development since 2000. Initial investments made by a number of major French groups such as Orange, Carrefour, and Conforama have added several major projects such as the Metro in Santo Domingo and water sanitation, which is being carried out by French enterprises the funding of which is provided in part by the French Development Agency (AFD). To go further together, which will result in an increase in the volume of business and the quality of the political dialogue between our two countries, we agree upon three objectives: first, to facilitate achieving major projects in development realized by the French groups, including Alstom, Thales, and VINCI; second, to extend the feasibility studies during the actual launch of their corresponding sites, particularly in the field of renewable energy (wind energy farms) or railway transportation (the link between Santo Domingo and Santiago); and third, to reinforce the exchange of business between France and the Dominican Republic through the Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF) and the Chambers of Commerce by attracting the best French companies and their subsidiaries in Martinique, Guadeloupe, or French Guiana.

France has shown its commitment to the Dominican Republic’s development through cooperation in social, cultural, economic, and technological areas. Why is it important for France to support the Dominican Republic’s development?

There are multiple reasons. One is the proximity of the Dominican Republic with our Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and another is its adjoining with Haiti and subsequent support after the earthquake of 2010. The country is also an International Francophile Organization (OIF) affiliate and has an observer headquarter office there, subscribes to the EU/CARIFORUM agreements and has a place in our regional system of military cooperation, a commitment to regional political forums, and a common history with France, which makes it an important partner for us. In many aspects, the Dominican Republic is emerging and France has every wish to accompany and support the path of its development.

“In many aspects, the Dominican Republic is emerging and France has every wish to support its development.”

France offers university scholarships to Dominican students to increase cultural and academic exchange between the two countries. How can the students of both countries benefit from this experience?

The formation of the elite is a foremost issue, for France as well as for the Dominican Republic. Hence the decision of the two countries to strengthen their partnership in this area with a high-level university cooperation program, currently under implementation. In addition, we are pursuing a French-Dominican co-financed scholarship for the program “Going to France.” Our goal is to significantly increase the number of Dominican students in France and our DFA. According to this plan, the Regional Council of Guadeloupe has also established a scholarship program for pursuing graduate studies in Guadeloupe, where the headquarters of the University of the Antilles and Guiana (UAG) can be found. Symmetrically, French students are encouraged to visit the Dominican Republic, especially for immersion stays and language training.

How can France and the Dominican Republic improve their cooperation in the reconstruction and renovation program in Haiti?

As you know, the reconstruction of Haiti is primarily based on a multilateral mechanism involving key international donors. The main part of the French contribution passes through this device, which centralizes the aid from the international community. On the bilateral plan, high-level, Franco-Dominican consultations were held in 2009 to review the various components of the relationship between the two countries. The next consultations should be held in 2013. However, since the earthquake, our two embassies in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have reinforced the coordination of their actions on projects in the context of the reconstruction of Haiti. The upcoming opening of the University of Limonade is a good example.

Earlier this year, the Regional Council of Guadeloupe signed a cooperation agreement to strengthen the commercial and economic bonds between the Dominican Republic and the Guadeloupe region. What opportunities are expected to arise from this?

This agreement aims to strengthen the flow of trade and business opportunities within Guadeloupe. It is necessary to increase the amount of meetings between entrepreneurs and traders. In each economic sector where there is Dominican demand, the agreement is to mobilize the established French companies in Guadeloupe and provide a competitive and quality offer. It is the same in the field of urban development and planning, where the Guadeloupe region has an undeniable know-how that can be used toward the development of an urban community of greater Santo Domingo. However, it is left up to private sector operators to define the terms and areas where joint ventures could be considered.

The year 2013 will be the “Year of the Dominican Republic” in Guadeloupe. What is the significance of this recognition?

Political cooperation between the two countries has meaning only if it serves the reconciliation of people and culture, the strengthening of solidarity between the people, and the desire to live together in a stable, peaceful, and prosperous area. In this context, 2012 was the “Year of Guadeloupe” in the Dominican Republic, where I conducted several delegations myself while presiding over the Guadeloupe region. After being so well received by our Dominican friends, 2013 should be the “Year of the Dominican Republic” in Guadeloupe. With this series of events to be marked on the calendar, we aim to increase the visibility of our great neighbor in Guadeloupe by projecting the image of its economic and cultural vitality and strengthening the mutual understanding between Guadeloupians and Dominicans.

© The Business Year – December 2012

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