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French Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) President David-Pierre Jalicon, ninth from left, cuts the tape together with other dignitaries in a ceremony timed with the chamber’s relocation in early 2020. Photo courtesy of the FKCCI

David-Pierre Jalicon invites Korean companies to France

The Korea News Plus recently had an interview with French Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) President David-Pierre Jalicon regarding France’s profile as the best investment hub for foreign companies, including Korean enterprises, on the occasion of recent Bastille Day on July 14. _ ED.

Q: First of all, how is the significance of France in terms of its relative importance compared with other G7 nations after the G7 Summit held recently in the U.K. in tackling international issues such as climate change, G2 balancing, or France’s plans to heighten its voice in the framework of G7?

A: France has a significant influence in international affairs, notably in climate change. Macron’s “Make Our Planet Great Again” initiative at the start of 2017 reinforced international engagements of the Paris Agreement. Moreover, as a member of the G7 and G20, France will continue to play a key role in international relations.

France is a strong defendant of multilateralism. Therefore, during the G7 Summit in Cornwall, the French President stressed the importance of tackling major issues like climate change, world trade, and development policies collectively.

Multilateral initiatives are especially important during an era dominated by the G2. Korea is highly dependent on China and the U.S. in both import and export, and due to ongoing geopolitical tensions, I think that it is in Korea’s best interest to diversify its trading partners with European countries in order to reduce dependence on the superpower.

During a pull-aside meeting during the last G7 Summit, Presidents Macron and Moon discussed the importance of bolstering bilateral ties in areas such as technology, public health, and energy.

At the FKCCI, we strongly support such initiatives to increase French-Korean economic ties as we are helping on a daily basis French or Korean companies exploring market opportunities in France or Korea.

 

Q: In particular, how are French President Macron’s contributions to rebuild France’s image all over the world or his accomplishments since taking office?

A: At the World Economic Forum in 2018, shortly after he was elected, President Macron announced that “France is back.”

To increase foreign investments, the French government has initiated legislative reforms from 2017 notably one that reduced the corporate tax to 25 percent and provided more flexibility in the labor market.

With a more favorable environment for foreign investors, France is enhancing its attractiveness and competitiveness.

As a result, France is the top European destination for foreign investments for the second consecutive year as of 2020. Furthermore, the annual “Choose France” summit is the backbone of the government’s project to enhance France’s image all around the world.

 

Q: How are pandemic cooperation between the two nations and the prospect including France’s support to neighboring countries or underprivileged nations in terms of vaccine assistance, etc.?

A: France and Korea have converging visions with regards to what will solve the pandemic, which is vaccination. Thanks to the existing cooperation between the Pasteur Institute in France and its branch in Korea, both countries are working together in vaccine development research to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the long run, it will be necessary to foster new and more systemic partnerships in research to effectively respond to future viruses.

Both countries contribute to the Gavi COVAX initiative: France pledged EUR 350 million in new contributions and already sent quantities of vaccines to African partners and Maghreb (Tunisia), while Korea delivered 49 million doses to 85 countries and pledged new contributions of $200 million.

More generally, France and Korea share the same vision with regards to the health sector, as both believe it should be a global public good.

The bilateral cooperation is particularly shining in other countries, according to France’s Indo-Pacific strategy: a joint trial on Korean medicine, led by the Pasteur Institute in Korea and funded by the MEAE and the Korean Ministry of Science, is ongoing in Senegal, Mexico, and Russia.

Finally, a French Korean fund for joint health research projects will hopefully be launched in 2021, like the one on artificial intelligence established in 2019.

 

Q: How can be France ‘s location & its geographical logistics edge explained in terms of its investment advantage for Korean investors who are eager to penetrate into the EU market and further into the African market?

A: France’s geographical location and quality infrastructure make it a strategic redistribution hub for exporting to Europe and Africa for many foreign companies.

Commercial ports in the Mediterranean concentrate traffic flows between Europe, Mediterranean countries, North Africa, and the Middle East. Korean investors can benefit as well from France’s advanced infrastructure and human resources regarding innovation and R&D.

Moreover, France maintains a very strong commercial relationship with several African countries thanks to the “Francophonie,” which is promoted by the international organization of Francophonie regrouping French-speaking countries, and where South Korea is an observer member.

In fact, France is currently Africa’s largest European trade partner and is a logistical hub that attracts foreign companies wishing to access the African market.

For the reasons outlined, I think France is an excellent investment destination for Korean companies that wish to find business and export opportunities across Europe and Africa.

 

Q: How are FKCCI’s plans and strategies to enlarge its activities in order to accelerate industrial cooperation between Korea and France in the years to come?

A: First of all, FKCCI is actively extending its company membership network. We doubled the number of members from 200 in 2011 to 400 in April 2021, a record high in our history.

Therefore, the French-Korean business community has expanded steadily, and we witness several trends, which are increased numbers of startups and SMEs (25 percent of FKCCI members currently) and increasing numbers of Korean companies interested in the Korean market (40 percent of Korean FKCCI members currently).

On a daily basis, we help such companies to find business opportunities in France and Korea. Especially since the COVID-19 crisis, we give customized assistance to navigate uncertain economic conditions and alternative online solutions such as online market prospection missions or remote commercial representation services.

We are also strengthening our sector-based approach with the launch of new French-Korean sectoral committees that are high-level business meetings to create networking and business opportunities.

For example, in 2020, we launched the France-Korea health committee and a Fin-tech committee as new additions to our other committees on energy, agribusiness, luxury, and innovation previously launched in 2018.

In the future, we are working on both the above-mentioned approaches in addition to strengthening our ties with Korean institutions such as KOTRA or KIAT to reinforce economic cooperation between our two counties.

With the momentum of French and Korean New Deal economic recovery plans, we are trying to bridge French and Korean companies to get benefit from it through our connections with government organizations.

 

Q: How are the trade and industry investments between Korea and France in recent years, and what are its future prospects?

A: In recent years, France has consistently been an important trade partner for Korea and vice versa. In fact, the free trade agreement between the EU and Korea came into effect in 2011 and eased the conditions of access to the Korean and French markets, and celebrated its 10th anniversary on July 1.

In 2019, both French exports to Korea and Korean exports to France reached a record high of $5.8 billion and $4.7 billion, respectively.

Korea mainly exports manufactured goods, automobiles, petrochemical products, and batteries to France, whereas France exports mainly aeronautical goods, industrial machines and equipment, luxury products, and food items to Korea.

Korean investments in France mainly concern information technology, communications, and property acquisition in the Parisian region, and there are 25 Korean conglomerates present in France.

Moreover, France is one of the top foreign investors in Korea and ranked third among European countries with 5.2 million EUR of FDI stocks, particularly thanks to big groups such as Renault, Total, Thales, and French banks that invest heavily in Korea.

Some 250 French subsidiary companies present in Korea consist of a strong backbone for the future of this bilateral relationship. Indeed, they represent a gross income of 13.2 billion EUR and 25,000 employees.

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