The economic prospects of relations between France and the Arab countries.
By Dr Saleh EL TAYAR, Secretary General of the Franco-Arab Chamber of Commerce.
It is customary to recall that France is one of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council, the third military power in the world, the fourth economic power, that it has moral authority and great influence. cultural and artistic which allows it to maintain privileged relations with many nations. Its international role is part of a vision of the world which is specific to it and which is described as a "French exception".
The fact that it considers the Arab world as an important and privileged partner has made people talk commonly of an Arab policy of France. What are the significance and scope of this policy in terms of economic relations? is the subject of our present study.
Also after having drawn the geographical and historical framework of the relations between France and the Arab countries, we will proceed to:
- an update on the volume and breakdown of trade in 2006,
- a reminder of the multiple strategic aspects related to oil and the rise of gas, military exports and the implementation of projects relating to water and electricity.
- a summary of reciprocal investment flows in the context of the increased role of the private sector and sustained growth of the economy.
In conclusion, we will underline the substantial increase in investments originating in the Gulf countries which are oriented more and more towards countries such as Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Syria mainly and where they are sometimes ahead. France as the leading investor.
A policy inscribed in geography and in history:
France’s Arab policy is rooted in geography and in ancient history.
Geographically, it is notable that France is a neighbor of the Arab world which begins in the south of the Mediterranean, with the five Maghreb states, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria and which extends into the vast geographical area that extends to the borders of Iran and the Arabian Gulf. This geographical proximity which favors exchanges and contacts makes, of course, France more sensitive than others to what is happening in the Arab world.
Historically, France's Arab policy can be traced back more than 2,200 years. But that is not our point, so we will not dwell on the various episodes that have marked the history of relations between France and the Arab world over the centuries.
The revival of Franco-Arab relations that began in the 1960s was accompanied by a rise in economic and trade relations. In 1970, the Franco-Arab Chamber of Commerce was created in order to promote and develop commercial, industrial and financial relations between France and the Arab countries. At the same time, the involvement of political power has encouraged a spectacular development of trade. The volume of economic exchanges can be considered even higher if we add the aspect of cooperation in the military field.
It is clear, however, that France's Arab policy is not based solely on simple mercantile aspects and on fluctuations in the price of oil, it is characterized by its global aspect. In this respect, it is exemplary in all areas: economic, cultural and political. The decision-makers devote a particular priority to the region in their reviews of the international situation, it is constantly referred to in the speeches held each year before the Ambassadors, by the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and its deputy ministers. The numerous presidential and ministerial visits carried out regularly to the Arab world also bear witness to this priority.
During the last speech of the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of the Iftar offered to Ambassadors of Arab countries on October 18, 2006, the latter recalled that President Chirac had repeatedly castigated what he rightly calls the shock, not of civilizations, but the “shock of ignorance”, and indicated the support that France is prepared to provide to partnership operations built around joint projects between the Maghreb countries which would allow the emergence of a pole of growth and development. With regard to the Gulf, after highlighting the opening of the Paris-Sorbonne University branch in Abu Dhabi, he indicated that the many partnerships that are developing with institutions, research centers and grandes écoles are a bet for the future.
Finally, the fact that two and a half million