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On the 20th of November 2018, within the International Classroom Programme, the Spanish Ambassador to France, the Hon. Mr. Fernando Carderera Soler, was invited by CEI International Affairs to expose his points of view about French economy and the hispanic-gallic relations.

 

The Ambassador was given an affectionate presentation by Mr. Antoni Millet, CEI’s director, and then, he began his discourse by presenting some traits of the Gallic country, where he points out that it’s a rich and modern country, but in which "no reforms have been made enough in the past years". He highlighted that France is a very prosperous country in some areas, but very restricted in others. An example of this is the low efficiency of the functioning of the services, in comparison with Spain.

 

Then, the economic, social and political relations between Spain and France were analysed. Ambassador Carderera stressed out that both countries have a close relationship in terms of culture, education, commerce, investment, politics, etc. Should be taken in to account that Spanish is the second most studied language in France after English, with about 3,200,000 students.

 

International Classroom France

 

In the economic field, the Ambassador pointed out that "there are very intense flows between both countries" and highlighted that the trade of Spain with France is higher than that of Spain with the entire American continent. France is Spain’s first customer with 15% of total exports, instead, Spain is its second supplier, after Germany. Imports are lightly below 11%. Spain is the second exporter and the sixth supplier for France. In both exports and imports, capital goods predominate.

 

  • Regarding investments, Spanish investment in France is important but it doesn’t reach that of France in Spain. Abertis, through the concessionaire group Sanef, which manages 20% of French highways, is the main Spanish investor in the neighbouring country.

 

  • In the French market the native product is related to good quality. The French consumer, in general, is willing to pay more for more quality, so is a demanding customer who gives plenty of importance to the presentation of the product.

 

In the social scope, France is characterized for having a high degree of regulation and regimentation, as well as a great tolerance to strikes, a current example of this are the protests of the so-called "yellow vests", which have neither a guidance nor a precise goal. It’s a country where 35 working hours per week have been established, but where many overtime hours are done and are recovered as vacation days. It should be noted that it is a society that gives special importance to social protection norms.

 

International Classroom France

 

The Ambassador stressed the great deficiencies that exist in the interconnections in transport and energy. Nowadays, there is an electrical interconnection of 2.8% of installed capacity. There is a project to improve these interconnections that consists of the construction of a submarine cable that would pass through the Bay of Biscay. If it is finally built, in 2023 the electric interconnection would increase up to 5%, far from the goal of 10% that was to be reached in 2020.

 

The interconnections also do not improve in the field of transport, given that currently there are only two routes of communication that unite these two countries. It is proposed, then, to build more. The different priorities of one country and another is what prevents the improvement of these interconnections. It is not a priority for France to increase the interconnections between the two countries, but for Spain it is, given that France is its communication channel with the rest of Europe.

 

In the political scope, F. Carderera highlighted the brilliance of President Macron, as well as his marked reformist agenda and to whom much is demanded, and although even his popularity has decreased up to 30%, it is expected to leave a mark. The Ambassador also highlighted the radicalization of the French vote in recent years, since 40% of the French vote corresponds to both the extreme right and the extreme left.

 

International Classroom France

 

Then, an interesting debate took place, in which the image of Spain in the Gallic country was particularly interesting, where, in the words of the Ambassador, "there is still a lot of work to be done". Issues such as Brexit, which could help further strengthen the bilateral relations of France and Spain, and the sovereignty of Catalonia, which greatly affected the image of Spain, also raised interest. The issue of immigration was also posed, a field that is "sensitive but still has no solution".

 

As a conclusion, the Ambassador proposed three advices for entrepreneurs looking to get into the French market:

 

  • 1) The first is to find its comparative advantage

 

  • 2) The second, to adopt French as a working language

 

  • 3) The last, attend fairs of the sector in question

 

 

Rapporteur elaborated by Ferdaous Erraklaouy El Youssoufi

Student of the Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and International Public Service

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