WHAT IS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF MEXICO SINCE BEING NAMED FRANCE AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO?
What impresses me the most about this extraordinary country is the diversity, dynamism and the feeling of the new winds that are blowing throughout Mexico and along with that the exciting rise of so many expectations. I have the feeling that I have arrived at a very privileged moment because Mexico is going in the right direction in the economic realm and seems to be opening a new page of its history.
On a personal level, as a French person, I feel attracted because of Mexico’s cultural richness and the extraordinary creativity of the people. I am fascinated by the popular culture of Mexico.
WHAT IS YOUR PLAN OF ACTION TO BE DEVELOPED AS AMBASSADOR IN TERMS OF STRENGTHENING THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FRANCE AND MEXICO?
I have the privilege to start my mission in the framework of the orientations that were started by the two Presidents during their fi rst meeting held last October. The outcome was that they decided to open-up an exciting new stage in our relations.
My plan of action has a global vision whose objective is to remake the development of the political relations holding together almost every fi eld of cooperation. President Hollande accepted the invitation of President Peña Nieto to make an offi cial trip to Mexico in 2014.
WHAT ARE THE AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY THAT YOU SEE IN TERMS OF STRENGTHENING RELATIONS BETWEEN FRANCE AND MEXICO?
Our efforts focus in the fi rst place on the economic and commercial exchange. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, designated Mexico as one of the seven priority countries for development of new investments and greater commerce. He named Ambassador Philippe Faure as the offi cial representative of the French Government. Mr. Faure recently traveled to Mexico to meet entrepreneurs and offi cials.
Also, it is important to remember that our two Presidents agreed on the creation of a High Level Council with the objective to explore different alternatives that will strengthen our relationship in the economic and commercial scope. From there we can take more and better actions in areas such as the creation of research, innovation and academic exchanges.
Obviously, the culture continues to be a fundamental bond between our two countries. This is the exact ambit characterized by our on-going exchanges. Today these are deeper, with a multitude of actors participating. All this illustrates the long affi nity that our societies enjoy.
Finally, I would like to mention our commitment in support of sustainable development and the fi ght against climate change. It is important to point out that the French Agency of Development is an important player supporting the National Strategy for Climate Change and the continued development of important projects in Mexico.
It is clear that in all of these fi elds of cooperation, we have the intention to work in three areas. In the fi rst place, with the federal institutions and with several Mexico states each representing an extensive fi eld of opportunities with political and economic actions that arouse interest for our own 22 French Regions. The third area is the exchange between our societies. By this I mean in particular the young people and the academic exchanges that exist with our Universities and the French Alliances located throughout Mexico.
HOW HAS THE COMMERCE BETWEEN MEXICO AND FRANCE EVOLVED IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS?
The key sectors are those that have boosted trade between France and Mexico, namely pharmaceuticals, information technology, electronics, as well as industrial and agricultural machines. In the year 2012, for instance, the total number of exchanges between France and Mexico continued to grow compared to 2011, fi nally reaching US$4.5 Billion. This represents an important increase of 6.2%.
These fi gures show a continuation of the revival of our exchanges after the vacuum that emerged following the crisis of 2008. The bilateral commerce had brutally contracted 30% back in 2009, but eventually it recovered in 2010 and 2011. Our exports, however, have kept predictions under the levels shown in 2008. But this is not the case of the Mexican exports that registered a very notable progression by rising over 50% in a four year span of time.
This positive trend should be stressed due to major orders for Airbus by Mexican companies. In January 2012, for example, the company ordered 44 A320 devices (of which 30 are A320 Neo, which are friendlier to the environment). Meanwhile, Interjet placed an order for 40 A320 Neo in November 2012. This represents a total that could eventually reach US$7 Billion.
Finally, the project is deeply anchored in the free trade agreement between the European Union and Mexico. This is an achievement that could successfully consolidate bilateral relations, which are already great between our two countries.
WHAT ROLE DOES MEXICO PLAY FOR FRENCH INVESTMENT IN NORTH AMERICA?
The Mexican market continues to enjoy the benefi t, during the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, of a policy of trade liberalization. Mexico currently has 12 trade agreements with 44 countries. This represents a very privileged export platform and attracts numerous French industrial investors eager to enter the export markets pointed toward the American NAFTA Treaty.
Access to the markets of the Central and South American countries has also been privileged, facilitated in particular by close cultural proximity. This phenomenon can be observed through the breathtaking expansions of companies who are “multinationals” with Mexican origin, such as America Movil, Bimbo or Cemex.
French companies are also aware of the new evolution of Mexican trade policy, and in particular, the opportunities offered by the Pacifi c Alliance and the future Trans-Pacifi c Partnership (TPP).
HOW HAS THE FRENCH INVESTMENT IN MEXICO EVOLVED?
French investment in Mexico totaled $US$329 million in 2012, twice as much as in 2011. This amount is equivalent to 2.6% of the investment fl ow of foreign direct investment (FDI) received by Mexico, which ranks France in seventh place on the list of investing countries. France has about 2% of the stock of FDI in Mexico, mainly in the areas of manufacturing and services. In recent years, the average annual investment was around US$200 million.
Beyond the numbers, it is necessary to highlight a signifi cant French presence, one that is diversifi ed and expanding. Mexico has about 400 French companies, particularly in the metropolitan area of Mexico and in the major industrial cities of Monterrey, Queretaro, and Tijuana. Most of the large French industrial groups are present in Mexico and often play a leading role in development: this is the case, for example, of Danone (No. 1 in bottled water) and Sanofi -Aventis (No 1 and No 2 in vaccine medication). Another good example is Safran, they are fi rst in the number of jobs in Mexico’s aeronautical sector. Large companies are also present in the services sectors.
WHAT IS THE LEVEL OF SATISFACTION OF THE FRENCH COMPANIES WITH THEIR OPERATIONS IN MEXICO?
Companies in which the Embassy maintains close contacts are globally quite satisfi ed with the business environment in Mexico. It is rightly believed that the market is “open”. Mexico has many advantages: production costs are among some of the most competitive anywhere, the workforce is skilled and experienced, and innovation has been fueled in particular by the poles of competitiveness that are constantly developing. These favorable conditions have enabled French companies to develop quickly and become viable over the long term.
IS THERE ANY ADDITIONAL FRENCH INVESTMENT IN MEXICO TO BE EXPECTED IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
The year 2012 was characterized by strong investments, such as Air Liquide (US$135 million for a production of oxygen), or L’Oreal (US$100 million for a production of dyes). Eurocopter, a subsidiary of EADS which opened in February 2013 is a factory of helicopters and aircraft doors in Querétaro (US$100 million) and the fi rm announced it would invest up to US$550 million in the aerospace sector in coming years. The Research and Innovation Center in Monterrey Schneider will also open this year.
Our French companies are also very attentive to the ongoing reforms in the fi eld of telecommunications and energy, and are willing to invest in these sectors when opportunities arise. In addition, large rail projects interest us greatly. Our large groups such as Alstom and Thales can bring technology and experience.
At the level of intermediate-sized enterprises, France launched an ambitious policy to develop trade and investment with strategic countries like Mexico in key sectors. Some of these are: “live better in the city”; “communicate better”; “eat better” and “best cure”. The aim is to double the market share in fi ve years. This will essentially increase the presence of SMEs in the priority sectors for our economy, taking into account that large groups are already present.
Our companies wish to participate in major projects which include Mexico, particularly in infrastructure, as an example. But we also want to take the example of the Aeronautical Cluster of Queretaro, which is present in other sectors that are closely associated with large companies and SMEs.