10-12 April 2013 – Presentation of the Franco-Saudi Business Forum
President Hollande to Saudi businessmen: “There are investment opportunities in France and you are welcome there”
At the initiative of Dr. Taufiq Bin Fozan Al Rabiah, Saudi Minister of Trade and Industry, and Mrs. Nicole Bricq, French Minister of Foreign Trade, Medef international organized on April 11 and 12, 2013, at L’Hôtel Intercontinental in Paris – the first Franco-Saudi Business Forum.
A highly symbolic meeting both by the number and rank of personalities who took part in this meeting and by the interest it aroused among economic players, French and Saudi, who all wanted to bring the historic partnership sealed back to life in Paris in 1967 between French President Charles de Gaulle and King Fayçal Ben Saoud.
Three French ministers, Mr. Pierre Moscovici, Mr. Arnaud Montebourg, Mrs. Nicole Bricq, and their Saudi counterparts, including Dr. Tawfig Al Rabiah, Minister of Trade and Industry, took part in the various round tables to affirm their conviction in the need to revitalize the partnership which binds the two countries and to express their desire to develop relations between France and Saudi Arabia.
Opening the work of this meeting, Mr. Jean Burelle, member of the Executive Committee of Medef, and Mr. Mohamed Ben Laden, President of the Franco-Saudi Business Council, in turn underlined the economic and political potential of Saudi Arabia and its major role in the stability of the region. Mr. Burelle emphasized the importance of this meeting, which constitutes “a wonderful opportunity for French and Saudi companies to discuss in order to learn about and identify the different sectors of the economy which constitute the vectors of growth and of development in the two countries”, whereas Mr Bin Laden rather insisted on the profound changes implemented in the Kingdom under the impetus of His Majesty King Abdallah Bin Abdel Aziz. He notably recalled that the Saudi kingdom, which intends to “fully integrate the global economy”, has a territory that is five times the size of France and a population of 28 million inhabitants, two thirds of whom are under 30 years old. And to add, “it is the world’s leading oil producer and exporter, its debt represents only 4% of its GDP, while its budget surplus is around 15%”. Closing his speech on a note of humour, Mr Bin Laden indicated that the writer who claimed the idea that the three types of accomplished men created by Saudi Arabia were “the warrior, the poet, and the prophet” had obviously forgotten to mention “the businessman”.
Several round tables punctuated the two days of this forum, creating as many opportunities to address the major issues relating to the diversification of the Saudi economy, sustainable development, investment programs in the energy and oil, agriculture and agri-food, health, transport and of course the development of human capital and the considerable means which are deployed today in the field of education, higher education and of training.
Politicians, experts, business leaders and major economic players each time presented their analyses, animated debates, and answered questions that were both relevant and practical, but which all had the same objective, same purpose and the same goal, namely: to get information, identify, determine an area or sector of activity to then target the ideal partner to set up and develop in a new high-potential market.
At these various round tables, we note the strong participation of several representatives and heads of large French and Saudi companies. This is particularly the case, on the Saudi side, of Mr. Abdullatif Al-Othman, Governor of the Saudi Investment Authority (SAGIA), Dr. Hasim Yamani, President of KA-CARE, Mr. Ali Al Gofais, Head of training at the Ministry of Education, Mr. Saud Bin Thunain, President of the Royal Commission of Jubeil and Yanbu, Mr. Fahad Abdallah Al-Mubarak, Mr. Khalid Al-Bauainain, Vice President of ARAMCO. On the French side, we note the presence of Mr. de Margerie, Chairman of Total, Mr. Patrice Couvègnes, Director of Banque Saudi Fransi, Mr. Olivier Granet, Director of Development at Accord, Mr. Philippe Laurent, Director of Egis Industrie, Mr. Jean Lemierre, President of the CEPII Study Center, Mr. Luc Oursel, President of Areva, Mr. Henri Proglio, President of EDF.