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The China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) organised their third Europe Forum in Paris earlier this month, bringing together government officials, corporate leaders, and academics to discuss China’s growing outbound investment and new opportunities for French business in China.
The programme included keynote speeches and panel discussions featuring Jean-Claude Raffarin, the former prime minister of France; Gao Yuanyuan, counsellor of economic and commercial affairs for the Chinese Embassy in France; Dr Yang Jiemian, president emeritus of the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies (SIIS); Professor Li Mingjun, president and professor of management at CEIBS, and Frédéric Vernhes, first vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce (CCI) Paris Ile-de-France.
“This forum provides us with a good opportunity to discuss a win-win relationship between China and France under the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative,” Gao said in her opening remarks. “Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France 53 years ago, the friendship between these two countries continues to deepen.”
Yang further explained the framework and broad objectives of OBOR, noting the main focus is on economics, but that it entails much else too.
“It is also necessary to have the support of policies, finance, infrastructure, and the public. Since China is the leading country in terms of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, and France is the core of the EU, which is the world’s largest economy, the joint efforts of the two countries can [drive] global economic growth.”
He added that this gave new meaning to the China-France partnership. Some level of economic co-operation would continue without the OBOR initiative, but the comprehensive cooperation it inspired would allow both countries to stand taller and see further.
Julien Marcilly, chief economist of Coface, a world leader in credit insurance, noted there were also some attendant risks, particularly those linked to political instability and the increased uncertainties of recent years.
“For instance, we do not know what kind of consequence Brexit will bring,” Marcilly said. “It is difficult to estimate the future accurately, but we have to imagine possible scenarios and come up with an adaptive strategy.”
He also noted the OBOR initiative is politically significant because it encourages non-protectionist international trade.
The forum’s round-table discussions featured business leaders such as Thomas Buberl, general manager of AXA; François Quentin, chairman of Huawei France; and Alberic Guigou, president and co-founder of Réputation Squad.
The topics included examples of successful co-operation between China and France. One such is global insurance company AXA’s link-up with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, giving the former greater access to the Chinese market and a secure way to accept payments.
One panel also discussed how French technological advancement is the key to attracting investment. For instance, Huawei, the Chinese provider of networking and telecom equipment and services, opened in Paris 14 years ago and has seen steady growth and expansion.
“The company is investing heavily in technology and research in France, where they can find excellent engineers and technicians,” said François Quentin, who manages a Huawei R&D centre in France. He added that successful R&D centres set up by overseas companies aim to integrate local knowledge into their product design and processes.
The Europe Forum’s next stops will take place in Munich and Warsaw in September and in Zurich in October.