Visit of the French Ambassador to Mumbai
Mumbai, 21 September 2018
The Ambassador of France to India, H.E. Mr Alexandre Ziegler, visited the Innovation Centre of Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai, where the company presented its expertise in innovative multimedia technology. He was accompanied by Ms Sonia Barbry, Consul General of France in Mumbai, and the Head of the Economic Department of the Embassy, Mr Jean-Marc Fenet.
Thereafter, Ambassador Ziegler addressed the 41st Annual General Meeting of the Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IFCCI) in the presence of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri Devendra Fadnavis, who was the Chief Guest for the event. Ambassador Ziegler recapitulated the intense bilateral calendar and expressed his delight at the prospect of meeting Chief Minister Fadnavis for Urban Mobility India Conference, which will be held in Nagpur from 2nd to 4th November.
Honorable Chief Minister, Shri Devendra Fadnavis,
Mr President of IFCCI, cher Guillaume,
Madame Secretary General, chère Payal,
Madame Consul General, chère Sonia,
It gives me great pleasure to attend, as I do each year, the IFCCI Annual General Meeting. It’s an occasion for me to travel to the beautiful city of Mumbai – which I often do – and share a few thoughts with you on the year that has elapsed and the prospects of the coming months.
This year has been a particularly rich and substantive period for our Indo-French relations. These relations were especially highlighted by the State visit of President Emmanuel Macron in March, and I’m sure everyone here remembers it, so outstanding has it been. Outstanding through its resonance in the Indian media, through its strategic as well as economic outcomes, and through the quality of the personal rapport established with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this occasion. And it was, last but not least, outstanding through its results: an impressive list of institutional agreements signed in fields such as civil nuclear energy, new energy, the environment, smart cities, e-mobility, and transport. Added to this list, of course, is the score of contracts worth over 14 billion euro, that were signed between our companies and Indian partners.
These agreements are a commitment for us: the period that lies ahead is for their implementation, follow-up, concretisation.
The presidential visit has highlighted the shared Indo-French commitment to combatting global warming and the promotion of renewable energy, particularly solar energy. The launch of the International Solar Alliance and the joint inauguration of the Engie solar plant in Mirzapur on the occasion of the visit were major landmarks. It is now up to us to build on these initiatives and pursue this path. Very soon, on 3rd October, the very first general assembly of the ISA will take place in the presence of our Minister of State for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Brune Poirson, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and UN Secretary General António Guterres. This will also be an opportunity, via the RE-invest Meet and Expo, to showcase our companies, our technologies, and our commitment to renewable energy in India. We all have to be there on 3rd October!
These even more strengthened ties with India are also reflected in many other sectors.
During his address to all the ambassadors of France gathered in Paris a few weeks ago, President Macron spoke of India no less than six times, underscoring the values we share in our now so uncertain world.
He particularly mentioned a partnership to be developed with our Indian friends in the digital technology sector. The upcoming visit of our Minister of State for Digital Affairs, Mounir Mahjoubi, on 11th - 12th October in Delhi and Bengaluru, will thus be an important step in this direction. We share common views regarding the digital sector with India. At a time when the subject of its regulation is being discussed at the global level, it is necessary to recall the requisite balance between economic freedom and the protection of civil liberties and privacy. Minister Mahjoubi will raise these topics with his counterparts in Delhi, before meeting the French and Indian stakeholders in Bengaluru, which is set to become a global cluster for the French Tech.
Allow me to also mention another very important event in autumn, which will take place in Nagpur on 2nd November: this city will host the annual edition of the Urban Mobility India Conference. On the very same day, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Maharashtra will honour us by opening the Indo-French Investment Conclave being organized by IFCCI, at which the Hon’ble Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Shri Nitin Gadkari, will also be present. I would like to specially thank the Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Devendra Fadnavis, for his attention to and interest in French investments. And, of course, I will myself be present at this event and invite the CEOs here to come one and all.
Another highlight of this autumn will be the visit of our Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean Yves Le Drian, in continuance of his regular trips to the friendly country of India. I think this will be his sixteenth visit to this country. You know how much Mr Le Drian, who is also in charge of the portfolios of Foreign Trade and Tourism, likes meeting our business community on the occasion of his visits and discussing our economic relations. His December trip will, obviously, maintain this healthy tradition.
My long list of important bilateral landmarks for the coming months will not be complete without the mention of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, which will be held from 18th to 20th January 2019 in Ahmedabad. As you are aware, it has become a national economic meet of prime importance, and in January 2019, France will be particularly well represented with over 120 participants and 50 companies. It’s up to us to perform even better in 2019, but we’ll have the chance to speak of this again.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you can see, this list is impressive and highlights the dynamism of our relation. The list is based on a solid foundation: the approximately 500 French companies established in India; a continuous flow of new investments that continues to place us among the top countries in terms of FDI; more than 350,000 workers employed in our companies in almost all sectors of activity.
But what I consider even more important is that our companies do not regard India as a short-term market or just a business opportunity. They come forward as partners and engage in a lasting relationship with this country. They invest in India, create jobs, and they also innovate in India.
This foundation also includes sectors in which we are particularly present today, such as renewable energy, as already mentioned, and of course, the Smart Cities Mission. On this last point, Our companies are developing and succeeding not only in Mumbai and Bengaluru, but also in cities like Nagpur, Pondichery or Chandigarh, like Kochi, Ahmedabad, Pune, or Bhubaneshwar – where I was last weekend with 22 French companies. AFD’s growing commitment to the Indian market everywhere is contributing to this.
I also have in mind other sectors where we must particularly act: civil aviation is rapidly expanding in this country; so beyond the sale of aircraft, we must also support the modernization of airports. The agri-food industry will also creates a lot of opportunities and I commend our companies that are doing their utmost every day in this, today, very challenging market. I had the opportunity of discussing the issue with them this week during the first edition of Food India organized by SIAL. The healthcare sector, where our companies are very active, especially here in Mumbai, is one of our strengths and must remain so in yet another very challenging context.
France’s influence in India is not limited to our political relationship or our economic presence, no matter how good they are. It spreads through multiple drivers, such as the choice of our country as a place of study for Indian students. There again, we must consolidate our foundation and the number of Indian students in France. We are growing strongly and the target of 10,000 Indian students in France is now within reach. The Franco-Indian Education Trust, created during the presidential visit and to which some of you have already contributed, will help us in this regard.
Our influence also spreads through the rising number of Indian tourists in France. I thus welcome the marked hike recorded during the recent period, facilitated by the mobilization and efficiency of our visa services.
Beyond this solid foundation, we collectively have room for progress. We can congratulate ourselves on our bilateral trade; It was marked just two years ago by a deficit of nearly 2.5 billion euros to France’s detriment. It’s now almost balanced in 2017. But we essentially owe this success to one sector, that of aircraft exports. In many other sectors, our trade does not yet match up to the quality of our overall relationship. We are working on it. Just as we are also working on promoting France as a more attractive investment destination for Indian companies. 150 Indian companies have already decided to invest in our country. I am pleased this figure is on the rise this year. But France’s new dynamic image has opened up a new avenue, which we must also make the most of.
During last year’s IFCCI AGM, we debated whether India has a demanding business climate. Well, if it’s demanding for us, it is demanding for our competitors as well. So it’s not insurmountable and it’s clearly progressing in the right direction thanks to the reforms undertaken this past few years. But it is obviously more challenging for small companies than it is for larger groups.
Supporting our SMEs, opening doors for them, presenting them with Indian opportunities is a task that Business France carries out every day. But it is also everyone’s business. Large groups established in India can make French SMEs part of their supply chain. The IFCCI, as it does today, can assist our companies learning about India in their various procedures and their understanding of Indian realities. It is also the support and advice constantly provided by our Foreign Trade Advisers, whose commitment I wish to commend.
Ladies and Gentlemen, one of our best assets in this country will always be the team spirit that drives the actors of our economic relationship on a daily basis. This struck me on my first day in this country and I keep seeing it at all times. IFCCI is obviously one of its key pillars, and I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary work done by its management team to promote and develop this chamber. It was no coincidence that this summer it received the Best Performing Chamber Award abroad!
With IFFCI, alongside the embassy departments, our consulates (I take this opportunity to welcome the arrival of Sonia Barbry in Mumbai), our Foreign Trade Advisers, we all share the same objective to make France shine in this country dear to us. And we constantly work as a team.
As I tell you every year, for this, the Embassy of France in India is always at your side today as it was yesterday. It is also your home, it is open to you and will always be there to back you and actively support your development in this country with great opportunities.
I thank you for your attention.