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Nicole Bricq

UAE, ABU DHABI - Diplomacy

Two’s Company

Minister for Foreign Trade, France

Bio

Nicole Bricq was elected to the íŽle-de-France Regional Council in 1986, later becoming Chair of its Cultural Committee. From 1988 to 1990, she served as a technical adviser to the office of the Minister of Defense. In 1992, she was an adviser on the staff of the Minister for the Environment, responsible for relations with Parliament and local officials. She was elected to Parliament in 1997, becoming a member of the Finance Committee. In September 2004, she was elected to the Senate, representing the same département. Nicole Bricq served as Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Energy. In June 2012, she was appointed Minister for Foreign Trade. Bricq holds a Master’s degree in Private Law, and is an expert in public finance and taxation issues.

"France has put in place a very strong support system for companies established in the Gulf."

How do you assess Franco-UAE trade relations?

The UAE and France have strong and confident historical ties. Since the establishment of the Federation, leaders on both sides have cultivated an exceptional relationship that has strengthened trust and complicity, which benefits our trade and economic relationship. The UAE has become in recent years a strategic economic partner of France in the Middle East. Absorbing ‚¬3.53 billion of our exports, the UAE is our primary commercial market in the Gulf. Our bilateral trade generated a positive balance of ‚¬2.37 billion in 2012, the fourth largest global surplus for our country. Our exports are based on four sectors: food processing, aerospace, electrical and mechanical equipment, and consumer goods, including luxury goods. Our imports are mainly comprised of petroleum products (about 80%). Major French groups have long been established in the UAE and cover a wide variety of sectors, including oil, aviation, banking, insurance, retail, hospitality, and transport. In addition to this, several major projects have been carried out by French companies. Our dynamic bilateral trade relationship is reflected in growing interest from our businesses in the UAE. Today, we count 600 French companies in the country, and their numbers increase steadily by 10% annually. This is a sign of the UAE’s dynamic economy. It also shows the performance of our companies, large and small, where their technologies and know-how meet the expectations of a country in search of the most innovative technologies.

What priorities do you assign to economic cooperation between France and Abu Dhabi?

Regarding our largest commercial market, we hope to maintain the density of our trade by increasing our market share in the country. Due to increasingly fierce foreign competition in the UAE, today more than ever, we must continue to intensify our efforts to strengthen our position in a market that is one of the most dynamic and most creditworthy in the Middle East. First and foremost, it is important that our champions, including Total, GDF Suez, Technip, Veolia, EADS, Airbus, Alstom, Thales, BNP, Société Générale, and Carrefour, successfully position themselves for major equipment programs launched in the emirate: the development of the oil sector and renewable energy, urban transport metro, tram, and bus projects in Abu Dhabi, and civil aviation, particularly in its industrial components. Secondly, it seems to me essential to reinforce the presence of our SMEs, whose expansion in the UAE remains insufficient. Several sectors are profitable for them; in particular, I think hydrocarbons, urban development, food, health, environment, and biotechnology. To this end, I place great emphasis on concerted actions designed to lend more visibility to our know-how. Thus, in the field of urban development we have launched an initiative that unites the French offer as a whole by creating Vivapolis, a real brand that promotes the French sustainable city, which will help our companies to succeed in the international marketplace in this sector. Vivapolis brings together more than 80 large and small companies that can provide global solutions to meet all the challenges of intensive urban development.

“France has put in place a very strong support system for companies established in the Gulf.”

At an institutional level, how does France organize itself in Abu Dhabi to support its business?

To enhance economic development in Abu Dhabi and the Federation, France has put in place a very strong support system for companies established in the Gulf. This system is coordinated by the Economic Department of the Embassy. It includes a large office called UBIFRANCE, the French Trade Commission, which supports SMEs in their exports across the UAE by offering market analysis services, prospecting, and networking. It is also in charge of promoting the French offer, in terms of organizing French joint stands within the largest trade shows in Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well as individual technological conferences. Our companies can network with the French Chamber of Commerce here through the French Business Group (FBG), which promulgates advice and assistance and promotes the local integration of our businesses that get established in the Emirate. We also have a savvy businessmen section which gathers 30 men and women from the French business community in the UAE, named the “Foreign Trade Advisors of France,” whose mission is to share their knowledge of the field with other businesses, especially SMEs that wish to enter the UAE market. I also want to mention the presence of an office of the French Agency for International Investment (IFA), which aims to facilitate the UAE investments in France, the office of Atout France, in charge of promoting the French offer and cooperation in the field of tourism, as well as SOPEXA to promote agribusiness. Some French regions, such as Rhí´ne-Alpes and Lorraine, have opened a representative office in the UAE to support the work of their companies.

What are the issues surrounding the renewal of concessions for your oil champion, Total, and what are the factors behind its success?

It is evident that the renewal of the partnership with Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO) is a high priority for Total in relation to the size of the onshore oil fields of Abu Dhabi and the special relationship between the authorities of the Emirate and our oil group. Total Group provides ongoing technical assistance and provides staff. For over 50 years, it has been closely associated with the development and prosperity of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and it is now the largest investor-partner of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Abu Dhabi in the energy sector. Total is committed to working with the UAE in the development of energy resources of the future, whether in its historical areas of excellence—oil and gas—or new energies, based on a long-term approach. Total Group is committed to sharing its expertise and technology to maintain its position as a major partner of ADNOC.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Forum was held in Paris last May, in the presence of an Emirati government delegation from the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and more than 200 senior French officials, businessmen, and investors. What are your feelings on this forum? What lessons do you draw from it on the bilateral relationship between France and Abu Dhabi?

It was a great pleasure for me to welcome the Abu Dhabi Investment Forum in Paris. I was very sensitive to the fact that the government of Abu Dhabi has decided to hold this forum in France, and I would like to thank the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development and all his delegation for the quality of this symposium, which aimed to promote economic relations between our two countries. The last event of its kind held in Paris dates back to 2007, so an event such as this one was long overdue. The Abu Dhabi Investment Forum in Paris allowed us to measure how important the investment opportunities are in strategic sectors such as industry, energy, transport, trade, finance, education, and tourism. The opportunities were so interesting that the government delegation from Abu Dhabi clearly expressed its desire to see more French companies, especially SMEs, positioning themselves on major projects for the economic diversification of the Emirate. The large number of French companies present has assessed the expectations of our business community vis-í -vis the UAE market. They were able to interact directly with key decision makers in the UAE, and I think I can say that this conference has fully achieved its objectives. I sincerely hope that it can be renewed in 2014 and am ready to give my full support to its organization.

© The Business Year – March 2014

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