Strong Indian Presence at the “Choose La Réunion” Summit [fr]

Reunion Island, 23 October 2019

The President of the French Republic, H.E. Mr Emmanuel Macron, invited political authorities and investors of several Indo-Pacific Rim countries to the Reunion Island to develop the economy of this region.

India was particularly well-represented at this event. The Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr Vellamvelly Muraleedharan led the Indian delegation. The delegation included:

  • Mr Vikram Kirloskar, President of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)
  • Mr Jai Shroff, Chairman UPL
  • Mr Miguel Munoz, Chief Resorts Officer of Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India Limited
  • Mr Dhiren Pereira, The Oberoi Mauritius
  • Mr KS Khan, L&T defence
  • Mr Prasanna Sarambale, Sterling & Wilson

The President of the French Republic, Mr Emmanuel Macron repeatedly described India as a strategic partner for the development of Indo-Pacific relations.

"All the economic players in the region are aware that this is the" strategic space" of tomorrow. We have an unprecedented card to play, the Indo-Pacific being the hub of global maritime trade. It is the crossroads of the world with submarine communications cables, but it will be even more so tomorrow, thanks to its fish stocks and the treasures of biodiversity which it contains".

Speech by President Emmanuel Macron at “Choose La Réunion” Summit

=== Check against delivery ===

Prime Minister,
Parliament Members,
President of the Region,
President of the Department,
Mayor of Saint-Denis,
Elected Officials,
Business Leaders,
Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to be with you after your long hours of work and discussions. And so, I’ve arrived at the end to collect the fruit of the seeds that you have sown, of all the strategic discussions you have had today, telling, showing, proving. But I wanted, above all, to tell you how happy I am to be with you here in La Réunion, on this island where not only beats the heart of France, but also that of Europe and the Indian Ocean. I’m starting this way because your presence, our meeting in this slightly atypical format, also brings us back to above all a powerful legacy, that of the unwavering ties that bind us, that of a civilization that great French and African historians very aptly call the culture of two shores. These shores which have made the Indian Ocean, not a dam or an obstacle but a link between the coasts of Africa, India and Asia, and thanks to your presence, Prime Minister of Madagascar, Ministers from India, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Comoros, business leaders from across the region, and you, business leaders who are investors, fellow French citizens, it is in uniting these forces that we are building a common space that I think needs to be reinvented. Many people of La Réunion who are listening to us could say to themselves: “That’s strange. The President of the Republic arrives in La Réunion and holds a conference with Heads of State and companies of the region. And he doesn’t speak about our problems.” I would argue that this meeting is at the heart of the problems of our territory here. A few moments ago, I was with our fellow citizens. They told me: “Do something about the high cost of living.” For a long time, we addressed the high cost of living with aid. Sometimes that is what has to be done. However, creating more jobs and more competition works better to drive down prices. That is how the high cost of living is addressed all over the world. What we need in La Réunion, and everywhere – and it is not the only territory facing these challenges – is to create more jobs and more activities, produce more, have more competition to drive down prices in the agrifood, retail, construction and import-export industries. We need this vitality. And I want to say to all our fellow citizens who told me that “my problem is the high cost of living”: the response is in this room. By helping business leaders in all sectors of La Réunion to work more with the region, and to play a full role in the Indian Ocean. I know how much you are convinced of this, Mr President, and how much has been able to be developed, but more needs to be done to find new markets. To drive down prices. To be able to access these strategic markets. To export more and create more jobs here. But also to open up La Réunion to other players in the region, who are going to discover legal security and French infrastructure and who are at times going to come and compete with our players. Driving down prices. Providing an offering that makes sense to our fellow citizens in an open economy. Therefore, the response to the high cost of living, if we want a real, sustainable, genuine response that is capable of making La Réunion a player again in this regional space that we are creating and of pulling off “Choose La Réunion”, is to create more jobs here, and to have more competition in all the key sectors so that prices drop and are not set by one or two players. This happens too often in certain sectors which decide to increase prices that everyone pays. And I truly believe that it is in the interest of the entire region to follow this strategy, as I have said, France is an island country. We are on all the continents and we are lucky to have these overseas territories. We should not consider France and overseas territories as rivals. It is better to focus on France’s ability via this archipelago to be very deeply involved in all of these regions in the world. Yet, we are talking about a region that, in all respects, today has a unique strategic character. The Indo-Pacific is a concept in which I believe deeply and that we have installed. This geographical reconciliation of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, the Indo-Pacific, extends from the shores of East Africa and Southern Africa to the American coasts. We are talking about a space that today accounts for more than 22% – and soon will account for 25% – of the world’s wealth, a space that is right in the middle of all the international trade flows. This huge change in the world brought flows back into balance. For a long time we regarded the world as a rivalry between Europe and the United States. Routes were re-opened, the outcomes completely changed. The change is happening and this Indo-Pacific region is even more strategic today than it was five or ten years ago. It is crucial from every aspect, and I’ll speak more about that later. I think the discussion that you had today and the meeting that we held in a unique format aimed to fully recognize and anchor France, through La Réunion, in this Indo-Pacific space. France is a maritime and island Indo-Pacific country. It is here because of its territories in the Indian Ocean, with which five sovereign States border. More than 1.5 million of our fellow citizens live in the Indo-Pacific space and therefore, we have a role to play. We have strategic dialogue to conduct. We have partners with which we want to work more. France must become aware, obviously here in La Réunion, but in all of our territories, of this reality, this luck that we have in our hands. I think that in this region, we have a unique card to play. Ministers – and I thank them for their work, which shows the extent to which the Government is fully mobilized for the economy, jobs, and transport, and, of course, the Minister for Overseas France who is always by your side – have been working to show that the whole Government believes in this strategy. Firstly, because we have major assets with which to exercise this role. Secondly, because we can also be a stabilizing power in this region to successfully do so. Our progress (inaudible) in the Indo-Pacific, in the Indian Ocean means accepting – with all the countries represented here today and many of which are not here tonight, but share this space, representing us in a common space – to share a common future and to fully accept that we have a region to build. I spoke broadly about what Indo-Pacific is. The region is the epicentre of global maritime trade and it will grow. Oceans are home to 450 submarine cables through which global information flows. They harbour unequalled fish and energy stocks, which are vital to humanity. So this region of which we speak is becoming the crossroads of the future when it comes to maritime routes. It has now become the crossroads for submarine cables and connectivity. And it will increasingly be a crossroads given the fish and energy stocks it has and the biodiversity treasure it harbours. And therefore, we have an agenda to build in this region that is absolutely unique. I believe that this agenda must be built in a collaborative and cooperative manner, as part of a strategy, if I can say, based on friendship, openness with all of the countries in the region, and genuine cooperation. And basically, I believe very deeply in and would like to see a strategic agenda based on friendship for which we can develop components, with all the countries here today, and markets in which many of you work and sometimes families that you formed. For our territory, La Réunion, I think, symbolizes this Indo-Pacific wealth combining this unique expertise, and the fact that so many different cultures across the region live together. So I would like to go over this agenda very quickly with you tonight. Of course, I will talk to you mainly about the economy, but in addition to the economy, I wanted to talk to you about a deeply geopolitical vision of this region that we must share. Geopolitical, because I think it is above all a security agenda that we must build. The Minister for the Armed Forces explained the details of the security and military pillar of our Indo-Pacific strategy a few months ago in Singapore. I had begun presenting it myself with my friend, Prime Minister Modi, a bit more than a year ago, then I presented a number of its components in Sydney with our armed forces. It is the idea to say that if we want this space to continue to be a mutually respectful space of freedom and sovereignty, we need to collectively ensure its security so that everyone can have what Australian Prime Minister Turnbull has called “freedom of its sovereignty” in this great Indo-Pacific space and so that hegemony does not take root in the region. Therefore, to do so, we have a role to play and partnerships to establish and we’ve already begun our work. There are concrete operational measures being taken in the region that we are supporting. They involve action of our armed forces in the Southern Indian Ocean deployed to La Réunion and Mayotte and that contributes, in liaison with our regional partners, to regional security and stability, the fight against piracy, illegal immigration and illegal maritime activities. This presence is vital. It is vital for our fellow citizens who are living in the region, for our companies who wish to see their interests preserved, for our sovereignty in the region and for our partners. I myself do not forget that the first thing Madagascar’s new President said to me was: “I need your assistance and your (inaudible) to provide protection against illegal piracy and intrusions.” And this capacity that we have to be present and to deploy a security presence in the region is vital to the construction of this freedom and common agenda. With India, I have said, we implemented, with Prime Minister Modi, a common oceanic vision and strengthened our operational cooperation for security and stability in the region. Together we share the analysis of joint maritime security in the Southern Indian Ocean and we are working to set up common surveillance measures starting in the first half of 2020. The deployment of a maritime patrol aircraft of the Indian Navy is planned in La Réunion. This is also an unprecedented move and a very deep change. Some years ago, we did not imagine engaging with our Indian friends a maritime presence here along with the operations we recently conducted. It is a new strategic agenda that we are sharing. With South Africa, we have also established a strategic partnership. In November 2020, our armed forces will conduct a large military exercise called Oxide and I hope that the chairmanship of the African Union, which South Africa will begin in 2020, will provide the opportunity to chart a new course in this strategic partnership when it comes to surveillance of the seas. You have understood that I think this common security agenda in the region should focus on maritime surveillance, protection of our maritime spaces, and construction of a common agenda to avoid any form of hegemony or intrusion. France has established itself as the second leading maritime power in the world. That is also something we have often forgotten. It is a geopolitical reality. We have decided to reinvest in it politically and militarily, and act accordingly with our partners and fairly, by building these agendas based on trust with all the partners in the region. And it is this same energy and this same discourse that we want to have with, as I said earlier, Madagascar, by structuring it, but with Mozambique and many other countries in the region as well. France will chair the Indian Ocean Commission in 2020 and we will propose to our partners to deepen this integration agenda based on maritime security. The common agenda for the region that we are promoting in the Indo-Pacific with our Indian Ocean partners is also the second thing I would like to develop here and to stress, a focus on fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity. I said that this space is unique and a biodiversity treasure. And if we want to be successful in the region together, we need to build paths and means for cooperating in this area. We have engaged in several initiatives in this regard. The reform of the governance of the Green Climate Fund, which has helped countries in the region, and we will ensure effective replenishment in a few days in Paris. They involve the possibility of raising international funds, and the Minister is very engaged, for the most vulnerable countries, which are struggling the most, and to help them to develop renewable strategies that are perfectly in line with the strategy that we are pursuing on the territory of La Réunion to fight climate change – and I’ll speak more in detail in a few moments – and the development of renewable energy. The International Solar Alliance is a large-scale initiative that implements the Paris Agreement. With Prime Minister Modi, we launched it in the spring 2018 in India. It aims to significantly reduce solar power costs and enable countries which have abundant sunshine to exploit all of its potential. Funding, sharing best practices and mobilizing our agencies, particularly the Agence Française de Développement also helped develop our strategy in this context. And therefore, we have partnerships with India and all the signatory countries, with signatory companies and investors, and we have employed a specific model. A first strategy for the Pacific was drafted and, with our partners, we are finalizing a regional initiative in the Indian Ocean on biodiversity, ecosystems and climate change that will aim to step up this deployment. You can see that I consider that this climate agenda to be a game changer. It has been drafted so that we can have a true strategy on renewable and solar energy. We have begun to see this. We have built the framework for international cooperation. Now we need to raise all the possible funds and build common strategies with our partners in the region. We need to step up development in La Réunion so that the partnership can be built here. In addition, we need to step up efforts to protect biodiversity. This issue, like the one mentioned before it, is innovative and creates value. It must be recognized that this is an issue for building the economic sector. I would like us to have a much more effective strategy for conserving our biodiversity. Many elected officials, among which I see many familiar faces, know this and have been working on projects in this area for a long time. Protecting our biodiversity means preventing the predation of certain projects that are no longer compatible with harmonious development, and giving our people a full role. But it also means providing the possibility to develop sectors and job creation locally. Defending biodiversity in the Indian Ocean means finally truly building a partnership-based sustainable fishing industry. Today, it is quite a paradox to see to what extent we have failed to fully develop our fishing industries in our territories and to see – and I will not mention any names – certain predatory powers come to our waters to engage in industrial fishing, sometimes depleting our fish stocks, without generating any jobs in our regions. The key, the way to deal with such behaviour, is to conserve biodiversity, and enforce our sovereignty – as I just said – which means having legal instruments to prohibit this exploitation. For example, what I announced this morning in the Glorioso Islands, by proposing and deciding to establish a national natural reserve that will, in fact, protect our resources, and these resources, in line with this agenda, to develop sustainable fishing industries that employ our people and help our fish stocks to regenerate. That is a model that makes sense. And therefore, the biodiversity agenda is not reserved for those who have the luxury of having these great ideas. On the contrary, it is a strategic agenda for the whole region because the region is made up of vulnerable countries, if we don’t take care of them, because one of the assets of the region is its biodiversity capital. It’s not artificial capital, it’s not developed capital, it’s natural capital. And it is important to make full use of it. I also commit to ensure that at international and financial level, we are able to promote and make full use of this capital so that there is a return for the territories and people. And as you can see, it is an agenda focused on conquest. And La Réunion clearly has an essential role. But this entire agenda was worked out with all of our partners in the region. And the third focus of this Indo-Pacific strategy is obviously economic. I wanted to present a few strong lines to you, as stakeholders, the ones involved, because I believe very deeply that this region has an essential role to play and basically there are three focuses that I really wish to stress. The first pillar of this economic strategy is that of connectivity and physical and digital infrastructure. I know, you’ve talked about this. Your elected officials know how to promote and implement this pillar, and do so with force, and business leaders, along with the people, are fervently asking for this. Being connected means having access. Having access to the possibility to travel, to pursue studies, including in the region, to commute, to have and to exist in a cultural and linguistic space that has its reality, but that is separated sometimes by barriers of not being connected by sea, air and digitally. And so, we must do something about this. Infrastructure needs in the region are huge. I am going to quote the Asian Development Bank estimates of $22,600 billion by 2030. That shows you the challenge, and it’s a public and private challenge. It is absolutely considerable. And in an area mainly made up of ocean coastal or island countries, the issue of connectivity of networks and their transport networks is central, both economically and politically. Air connectivity, how can we propose innovative tourism options and invent a competitive economy, if we don’t have planes going to and from the region? I was in Mayotte yesterday. We can see straight away that with the runway constraints, things are difficult. I am aware of the constraints you are experiencing here. We have spoken often with you, Mr President, and with your Parliament Members. And so what does strengthening connectivity entail? Getting other players in the region to come, strengthening and stabilizing high-quality infrastructure here. But strengthening the competition. Getting new players to come and drive down prices. Successfully ensuring that there is a real offering and develop the regional offering, too, so that there can be sub-regional mobility. Thereby strengthening La Réunion’s connectivity with its neighbours. That is what we are going to do, building on Air Austral’s recent purchase of new A220 Airbus. We must initiate new partnerships with other companies, push them to develop, and also manage to better control competition in this sector so that prices don’t skyrocket. And to do that, I asked the competition authority to strengthen, including in this area, where we know excesses are sometimes noted. The issue is to build quality transport and communication infrastructure with our partners which ensure the free movement of persons, information and goods, which are economically sustainable projects respectful of the sovereignty of States in terms of debt. What does this mean? I’ll translate what I was told in diplomatic terms. When certain big countries offer other States to build infrastructure incurring a debt of 200% of the GDP, this is generally not sustainable. And therefore these are promises that end badly. There are examples that testify to this. Just look at what happened in Sri Lanka. It is clear that we are clarifying the mode of action regarding this issue. It is a debate that we continue to have with several of our friends because I think this point needs to be clarified. France clearly has an important role to play in this area, in terms of defining norms and standards – as it belongs to the European Union – financially, with the means that France invests via the Agence Française de Développement in the region, and in terms of skills. And therefore, we will continue to be extremely invested. However, in turn, La Réunion should be the hub for developing this strategy of connectivity and transport, for France. And several examples already embody this reality. I am not talking to you about some dream that is not rooted in reality. I am thinking, for example, about CMA-CGM, which has made La Réunion its maritime hub for the Indian Ocean. This choice benefits both our territory, of course, and La Réunion’s port and infrastructure strategy. It also benefits the region because it helps to develop it and is very good for our partners. It also bolsters several industries and enables trade. I am also thinking of a submarine fibre-optic cable liaison project, which is a major economic, security and sovereignty issue for all the countries in the region. I would like to draw your attention to this point. We have spoken very little in official speeches in recent decades about submarine cables. That could perhaps seem a bit strange to some who hear me speaking like this. But don’t be mistaken. In a world in which everything is becoming digital, this is a strategic issue. To enable exchanges and to speed them up, there needs to be more of them. But it is important to be safe, and to know who’s controlling them. Because the day when we lay down cable, but we don’t know who controls them and who has access to data running through them, we will wake up in a world which wil have a different face. And therefore, we must take care of this issue. And in the region, it is an absolutely strategic place, between Africa and Asia, between Asia and the Pacific. And therefore, this crossroads of submarine cables is a crossroads of economic exchanges and data exchanges, and at the same time, the strategic consequences of this point. It is in our vital interest to work on these projects between trusting partners. And this is also why the presence of several government members of the region is crucial. We must share this strategy. It is important to your sovereignty, to which you are so committed, and to ours. I am also thinking of the activities of your companies and the companies that joined us for the Action in Telecoms Summit in Madagascar, La Réunion, the Comoros, SIPROMAD and so many others that participate in this connectivity approach across the region. France’s overseas territories can also become genuine digital hubs in this framework. I spoke about this port infrastructure hub, digital hub. This is the wish of French Polynesia that we would like to see happen and encourage. I will be there in a few months. And this very clear perspective for La Réunion, which for several years has invested in digital technology, I myself had the opportunity to physically see this in the past. With Mauritius, it fosters very particular links both with India and the Indian continent. And we must succeed in making La Réunion this digital hub in the region, in collaboration with our partners, with Southern African countries, with the Indian sub-continent, and to succeed in putting all of our skills, our investment in this connection which is economic and also regards sovereignty. I think connectivity is the main pillar of the economic strategy that we should develop in the region. You, the investors and companies, the ecosystem of La French Tech, who I commended earlier, are here today and thriving in La Réunion and we can be proud. These are the entrepreneurs, I was about to say “young”, but they are from every generation and come from all the sectors, who wish to see La Réunion develop. They are succeeding. But they have a lot to do with Digital Africa. I see our representatives here and those who have worked. Digital Africa is a treasure that we ourselves have developed. It is networking thousands of digital start-ups in Africa, providing them with financing, but also relationships in the French-speaking, English-speaking and Portuguese-speaking milieus. I am saying this with regard all our friends in the region. But La French Tech of La Réunion, its leading partner, I say that very sincerely, is not La French Tech of Paris or La French Tech Laval, it’s La French Tech of Digital Africa. It is the African diaspora that is right next door, where there are wonderful opportunities, and access to huge markets. And therefore, I think this strategy of connectivity is essential. The second pillar of this economic strategy, this economic component, is sustainable cities, fully integrating the environmental dimension regarding energy, sustainable development and agroecology. I have said it before, there is wonderful energy potential. I began to raise this issue when I talked about biodiversity. I see the President of the CRE who is with us and is committed to the territory. That, too, is a connection issue. First, to secure supply and develop it in La Réunion, but also to develop networks and interconnections across the region. Because it is possible for us – even if we increase intermittent energies, if we use the energy connection – to reduce the shortcomings, reduce disruption, and have a true response. Therefore, having a regional energy network strategy is absolutely crucial and should be included in this Indo-Pacific agenda and I would like (inaudible), there can be very special work that is centred on the territory of La Réunion with our partners to explore this point and advance. This also means developing an ambitious agenda on renewable energies. We need to pursue large-scale development in the region because it is vital to curbing greenhouse gases. Very concretely, this requires working together to lift the regulatory and financial obstacles, coming up with projects suited to local specificities – as we have done with the International Solar Alliance that I spoke about – and working faster. I know that is what you want to do, and what we want to do. And therefore, with regard to the French territory, we are going to give more powers locally to roll out projects more quickly, both in terms of deconcentration and simplification. But I also hope that we can kick off a truly comprehensive strategy beyond solar power. And you are here to show that this is possible. France has a great deal to share with La Réunion and in the entire territory. It has many pioneer companies in wind turbines, photovoltaics, geothermal energy, marine energies and biomass. Several groups are here today. I cannot mention all of them or people would be jealous. But Akuo, Albioma and Mauritian groups such as IBL are here and very active in these areas. So we have champions in the region. We must now develop them, enable them to pick up speed. And what I hope is that we simplify things. We would provide the financing for projects; several of them were showcased this afternoon. We can show that these projects provide solutions that are adapted to the specificities of the region and we can very concretely facilitate their deployment with the Agence Française de Développement and other regional players. I am looking at the examples that were given including Akuo Energy’s cyclone-proof greenhouses which provide power to villages in Indonesia, but also solar plants combining energy production and agriculture in La Réunion. This is an example of how innovation in our overseas territories provides solutions that are not produced in other territories because they address challenges, for example, in cyclone-prone areas. They are inevitably not the same challenges we are facing 10,000 kilometres away. Nevertheless, these creations are interesting for many countries in the region facing the same challenges. Therefore, that is what we need to develop. And we need to achieve a market that can accommodate all of these companies and start-ups. We also need to build truly blue strategies together that respect sovereignties and environmental and biodiversity protection. I mentioned this earlier when I talked about sustainable fishing. But there is a whole strategy to develop regarding fish farms and maritime training centres. We have solid expertise, for example, via the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), working in La Réunion to help do all of this. I would like us to be able to step up this engagement. So, you now see that in this second focus area, we have a large number of jobs of the future in energy production of these networks in the region, which can be developed, and where it is possible to generate power that is low in CO₂ emissions but also generate jobs in our territories. And I will say this again to all of our fellow citizens, this also contributes to a strategy to fight a high cost of living. Because when we reduce our energy dependence, when we produce in these conditions, we produce less expensively and we lower the cost of power, the cost of energy. What is good for companies is, of course, in the end, what is good for individuals when they need to heat their homes and in certain cases travel. That is the right response, the only sustainable response. We must also step up regional exchanges on sustainable cities. It is one of France’s biggest strengths. We have champions. The Minister of the Economy knows this. He defends them. We have education and training programmes. The Minister of Labour is here and showed you this. We have re-engaged our skills investment programme in the territory with force. We need to increase the services we offer when it comes to sustainable cities. Sustainable cities are a challenge for the entire region. It is one of the greatest challenges in Africa and especially in this Southern African region. It is a crucial challenge for India, which needs to find ways to manage urban complexity. Managing waste, managing water, managing complex flows, mobility and traffic and adding intelligence to the mix, in all the sectors I just mentioned, we have champions. We have an economic offering and champions in the region. There are big groups, there are start-ups. Again, we have a regional strategy to build with African and Indian champions, to see them emerge, and French companies, to see them work in synergy with their ecosystem. This will be a key topic at the Africa-France Summit next June in Bordeaux. It will be sustainable cities because I’m convinced that this agenda is an agenda of the future. But one that needs to be in line with the environmental and economic agenda. And I am familiar with urban complexity and traffic problems all over the region. We know that we need these solutions and we need to reinvest and move forward faster. I have not forgotten in this regard agrifood issues that should be key to the regional integration strategy, implemented by the Indian Ocean Commission with our full support. Together, we must create the conditions for food security, better circulate best agricultural practices, promote agroecology, better structure our industries and develop intraregional trade. And this is a challenge for La Réunion and this is a challenge for all the countries in the region. What does this mean? This means that we must reduce our food dependence. And again, you are going to think this is an obsession because I understood that this was a concern for our fellow citizens and that it has created much dissatisfaction here. When products are expensive perhaps it is not necessary to import so many products from mainland France. That is crazy. Maybe we shouldn’t have to depend on the same import-export sectors. We can decide to step up local production and the creation of industries in La Réunion and the development of regional industries that are much more integrated. I believe in this agenda. There again, a sustainable response generates jobs and lowers prices. There are no foregone conclusions, just a desire for a sustainable response that generates jobs and lowers prices. There are no foregone conclusions, just a collective determination. When there are monopolies and oligopolies, generally it is positive for some people. People who find themselves in these situations want to stay there. We are not collectively obliged to be complicit. And these situations cannot be fixed with government funds. These situations can only be fixed with innovation, willingness, an entrepreneurial spirit in the generic sense of the word, and a desire to change things. All the region needs this. This is what I want to see for us as a whole. I think that it is possible – as I mentioned earlier, with regard to fishing and agriculture – to have a much more inclusive and labour-intensive agricultural agenda and to develop real industries that will also build food sovereignty. Several industries in La Réunion are posting good numbers – very good numbers – better than in other overseas territories. But La Réunion needs to continue to build its food independence at the same time as energy self-sufficiency that I mentioned and to help other countries in the region do the same thing and then increase trade. But it is important not to create dependencies that drive up prices. There is a genuine agenda on this issue. Our territories and those of their neighbouring countries have strong potential in these areas and our integration could be enhanced by the force of big groups, and some of them are here today. UPL for example, a global agrochemistry giant working in all the countries in the region, which could develop innovative and more cost-efficient strategies by using its input. There are so many agroecology solutions implemented here, which are being developed and that we need to help scale up. The last pillar I would like to stress in this strategy which I believe to be so important to the region economically, is stepping up human, tourist, academic and scientific exchanges without which an economic strategy is basically a motor without a soul. The economy is made up of women and men who discuss, travel, exchange ideas, develop a common agenda and actually share things. We must together build sustainable tourism because it is another common challenge in a region where tourism is key to the economy and one of the main resources of La Réunion. Therefore, this tourism agenda is an agenda focused on basic services and construction, we are well aware of this. And I say this here because it must then be the standard bearer, but we have a true challenge, when it comes to the building sector and the ability to get all our handicraft and trade community on board. I commend the presence of our small businesses here today. I see the President [Inaudible] who was kind enough to come and he knows how essential our small and medium-sized companies are to these sectors, tourism, but also manufacturing sectors that go hand and hand with the construction and building sectors that are boosted by this economy, these economies. And therefore, when I talk about all of that, I am clearly talking about the ability to create and develop companies that are called small and medium sized but that are seeking to grow and that are by far the most job-intensive and job-generating companies in the region. And therefore, this trade agenda and this sustainable tourism agenda is an agenda for our SMEs. It is a common construction agenda based on growth. So to achieve this, I think that what we need is to build a clear strategy. And I would like to welcome the launch of the tourism plan that the State and the Réunion region concluded this afternoon, which enables us to put this shared determination into action, a very significant expertise, to make La Réunion a genuine hub for expertise, excellence and cooperation in the whole region. The excellence of Mauritius is well known; it is truly an example in the region. La Réunion has this card to play. You decided to play it with force and I hope that you will be fully supported. I meant to say “completely” but said “fully support” to assist in the modernization of infrastructures, the excellence of tourism options, but also the excellence of sustainable tourism options, ie which address the climate agenda that I mentioned, which address tourists’ wishes of today and tomorrow, which address the objectives that we are setting in the area. And I hope that all the countries in the region will want to adhere to this agenda. They have the same one, and the desire to develop it with the same force. The sustainable tourism agenda is, therefore, as you have understood, essential to our companies, to job creation and to human exchanges. In this same connection, I would like to see our scientific and academic partnerships involved so that our young people can become more familiar with each other, benefiting fully from this regional foothold, which is a genuine source of discovery and revitalization. And this has already been seen, but sometimes too unilaterally and in a too limited way. But I took a look at the figures right before coming. There are 4,300 Malagasy students studying in France: 4,300. Seventy percent of them are in La Réunion: 70%. So we need go further in these exchanges and develop these shared university student exchange programmes. That is also why we need to launch Erasmus of the Indian Ocean to further the circulation of these talents, whether they are apprentices, who are so dear to the Minister of Labour, and assist in all of these sectors with regard to our SMEs in need, exchanges and circulation of talents and also the ability of our young people to acquire linguistic talents. It is great that our young Réunion students are going to acquire skills in Portuguese and English. We need that in the region by circulating, going to participate in exchange programmes and having our neighbours do the same thing in our country. Starting in this archipelago of France, we can build together an archipelago of knowledge, skills and science. And I consider the scientific cooperation agenda to be vital. Earlier, we decided to set up in the Scattered Islands, on Grande Glorieuse, a new permanent scientific centre to pursue the biodiversity agenda. I hope that we can do this in partnership with our Malagasy friends in particular, and that we can promote this agenda of biodiversity, skills and expertise together. After all, we can make the Indian Ocean this shared presence of an archipelago of Enlightenment thinkers. In other words, the circulation, talents, knowledge, and skills all together. These are some convictions that I wanted to share, you are the ones who are the leading actors. But for you to be able to do all of this, I needed to give you the strategy I’m pursuing. As I am asking my Government to work on, as I am asking our agencies to do, and as I wish to cooperate with all the countries in the region who are here today. In a certain way, this strategy will be built around France’s presence in the region. It should not be built, designed and developed from Paris. I have said very clearly that it should be built from here and this is the epicentre. And therefore, the wide range of skills and talents that it coordinates, must be here, in the region. In support of its priorities, I would also like to be able to propose another method. First, in working in the various regional integration forums. France is a founding member of the Indian Ocean Commission, which unites us with four member countries of the African Union. Our presidency, next year, and I’ve already said, will be a busy period for this implementation. And we are now relaunching our bid to become a member of the Indian-Ocean Rim Association, of which we are only observers, and which brings together 22 rim countries of the Indian Ocean. I call on our partners in the region to support us, because the focuses of this cooperation are fully consistent with those that we are promoting in the Indian Ocean Commission, where the value added of the French presence is recognized, I believe, and where we would fully like to develop them. We will also rally the support of the European Union, which is now extremely invested in the area, but which must build with us, with all of our partners, a genuine political, economic and environmental policy there. On the basis of these forums, we will take the initiative to build standing regional economic forums. We could follow the example of the Choose La Réunion event that was held today – and I would like to thank all of the organizers and participants – because this event was a first. We can attribute its success to all of the men and women who organized it. It was thanks to you and the fact that you are in the process of proving that this region has huge potential. And therefore, we are going to build successful forums to create genuine clubs of business leaders in the Indo-Pacific, collaborating with existing formats of Indian Ocean business leaders. To create good habits, to make it possible to develop common histories and I would like to commend the work that many of your do. Of course, I already mentioned the ecosystem and French Tech here, many businesses and SMEs of La Réunion, and big companies, but I would also like to commend the presence and the work of a dozen Indian CEOs, who made a special trip here today to be with us, with at their helm, the President of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Vikram Kirloskar, to strike up this dialogue. The presence of these big companies, the presence of several African Heads of State of the region is evidence that this agenda warrants existence and has force. La Réunion is a framework of mature European markets two countries away from Southern Africa, that is what it is. And therefore, it is the key to this strategy, a desire to develop the French Fab and French Tech, together with a high-growth regional environment and therefore, the wish to develop this strategy together. These are some important things that I wanted to tell you, and the commitment I wanted to make before you but especially the commitment I wanted to make with you. What I just explained is the strategy the Government is going to follow in its work in the months ahead. It is the strategy we would like to follow in our work with the region, department and all the municipalities, along with all parliament members. It is the strategy that we are proposing to all of our partners in the region with which to work, Heads of State and Government. It is the strategy we are following in proposing all investors, business leaders and agencies in the region. It is what we owe to our children. It is the only thing that will help veer off the path of inevitable division and separation. It is the only thing that can help us change our mentalities. La Réunion is not a faraway part of France that we don’t think about and that is thousands of kilometres from the realities of mainland France. It is a proud part of France and the Republic, which is at the heart of a strategic region, growing strongly, and that is driving a portion of France’s growth and ambition, in the region, with our partners. This change in outlook and mentalities, I am promoting, I am sure of it. But it will only work if you take it on board, if business leaders, workers and students of La Réunion, Mayotte, the entire region, bordering countries and partners take it on board, too. There is a future and ambition for the region we are in. I believe in this pact for the future we can seal. I believe in this Indo-Pacific strategy and, as you have understood, in this force. And we have a wonderful asset, the women and men of La Réunion. And that is why I wanted to come to this first meeting here. Because they are the bearers of a strong identity, but which combines all of these cultures and is the reconciliation of the African continent and Indian sub-continent. This is the future that has always been promoted in the Republic, France and Europe, but looking at this space, knowing how to build an atypical shared living environment, in this proud Creole identity, and this forecast across the continent. And here today, if you are on board, let’s launch this ambition for our young people, for our children and for the generations to come, which is to massively generate jobs and growth in the region and provide a future for our region by itself and for itself. And it is important to do so with digital and climate aims, aware of the role that we have to play, of the sovereignty that we are promoting and of the strategy that we have to develop here. So, ladies and gentlemen, here is what I wanted to share with you, in conclusion of this “Choose La Reunion” summit: building common projects, building ambitions together, because there are no foregone conclusions, because we are full of energy and because in partnership with all of our friends in the region, here, in La Réunion, we want to design, build and choose our future. Thank you. Long live the Indian Ocean, long live La Réunion and long live France.

Last modified on 11/03/2020

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