France welcomes success of talks with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia/Franco-Saudi business forum – Closing speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)

Riyadh, 13 October 2015

I’d like to begin by warmly thanking a number of key figures – His Majesty the King, of course, and the Saudi authorities, who have given us a tremendously warm welcome. I want to thank my neighbours and friends, the Minister of Commerce and Industry and my friend the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whom we’re very pleased to see here for the conclusion of this forum. I’d also like to thank the co-chairs of the forum, M. Jean-Louis Chaussade and Mr Bin Laden. I want to thank all the Saudi entrepreneurs and French entrepreneurs; I’ve been told more than 1,000 of you have passed through this magnificent hall over the past two days. And you’ll also allow me – everyone will understand this, I’m sure – to say a special thanks to Ambassador Besancenot, because I know he’s done an outstanding job along with his team, and on behalf of you all I want to thank him.

This forum is unquestionably a success because of the discussions held, the contacts established and the signatures provided.

Why this success? There are a whole series of causes: the first is that a strategic partnership between the Kingdom and France has been decided on by our two heads of state. Of course, our relations are long-standing, but two or three years ago they took on a new, and it could be said more sustained, form. And the fact that – I was talking about this again to my colleague and friend the Minister of Foreign Affairs – on most of the major subjects Saudi Arabia and France have identical positions, particularly on subjects concerning the region, is clearly a powerful catalyst to boost what we can do in the economic sphere. That’s the first reason.

The second reason is that many large businesses have been present for a long time; I want to welcome them. They’ve remained here, and I think we must pay tribute to them. The new element that must be emphasized is that Small and Medium-sized Enterprises have now joined them, and that’s an encouraging sign. Just as outside the traditional sectors where there’s partnership between Saudi Arabia and France, there are new sectors that have opened up, through the work we’ve done on the joint commission chaired, on the Saudi side, by Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and by me on the French side. The fact that there are new businesses and new sectors is extremely encouraging.

I also want to welcome the fact that French investments here are developing and that – this is new – because of the decisions we’ve taken this morning, Saudi investments in France are going to develop, not only in traditional sectors like property but also in more directly productive sectors; that’s extremely promising for the future.

I want to conclude these brief remarks by saying to you that quite obviously, because there’s a second forum between French and Saudi entrepreneurs, there will be a third forum which we’re going to prepare.

In the meantime, we’re going to continue our relationship of intergovernmental partnership within this committee. It’s an original set-up. We meet every six months, which enables us to take stock at the highest level, see what’s making progress and what hasn’t made sufficient progress, and correct some trends… You see how far the strategic partnership can go. (…)

So I was saying that, in addition of course to the business relations that are developing, and that’s excellent, we have this joint committee that meets every six months – the next meeting will be held in Paris in March –, which enables us to have the review clauses, to be proactive, and there’s no contradiction of course between what’s being done between the two governments and what’s being done between business circles, because it’s all heading in the same direction.

I’ll finish by saying that one of the features that has struck me most is that the Saudi economy is diversifying and that we have a lot of things to do together on new technologies, including in traditional sectors, because new technologies penetrate everywhere.

I may be especially aware of these issues because, in a few weeks’ time, I’m going to chair the much-talked-about COP21, the Paris Climate Conference, but I think that with Saudi Arabia’s traditional strengths, with its new diversification, with France’s traditional strengths and its new businesses, we have an extraordinary partnership opening up before us. So when there’s not only political agreement but also strategic will and entrepreneurs present, everything is in place for success.

I want – and this will be my last point – to thank our hosts again, congratulate you all and tell you that, in this economic diplomacy we practise, the partnership between Saudi Arabia and France is one of the most fruitful and most useful./.

Saudi Arabia/second session of the France-Saudi Arabia Joint Commission – Joint communiqué¹

Riyadh, 13 October 2015

The second session of the France-Saudi Arabia Joint Commission, responsible for the implementation of the programme of action approved during the official visit of the President of the French Republic to Saudi Arabia on 4 May 2015, was held in Riyadh on 13 October 2015 at the invitation of HRH Mohammad bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Minister of Defence and Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs.

This session, which was held alongside the second Saudi-French Business Opportunities Forum, co-chaired by HRH Mohammad bin Salman and the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, marked the intense relations of friendship and confidence between our two countries in a great variety of fields, and the shared will to take them even further. It showed a great convergence of views on the main regional issues.

This meeting was co-chaired by HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman and His Excellency M. Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development.

On the Saudi side, participants included H.E. Adel al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E Twafiq al-Rabea, Minister of Commerce, H.E. Abdullah al-Hussein, Minister of Water and Electricity, H.E. Khaled al-Faleh, Minister of Health, H.E. Hashim al-Yamani, KACARE, H.E. Abdulrahman Al-Mufadi and H.E. Yasser Al-Rumayyan, Public Investment Fund, while French participants included M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, M. Alain Vidalies, Minister of State for Transport, Marine Affairs and Fisheries, and M. Jean-Marie Le Guen, Minister of State for Relations with Parliament.

1/ On this occasion, the two parties proceeded with an in-depth review of their bilateral relations, with the aim of strengthening them in all areas.

They welcomed the fact that the following agreements had been signed at the Royal Palace in Riyadh following this second session of the Joint Commission:

- The Public Investment Fund has allocated $2 billion of investment in French private funds, with a focus on renewable energy and SMIs;

- The Saudi Public Investment Fund is in final negotiations to provide $3 billion in funding to COFACE for export financing;

- The two parties are in ongoing discussion about other investment opportunities for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in France;

- King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) and the French Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA) have signed a letter of intent for cooperation in the renewable energy sector;

- A plasma production facility in Saudi Arabia will be established by LFB in Saudi Arabia;

- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has lifted the embargo on French beef;

- A cooperation agreement has been signed between King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and DCNS to establish a naval research centre;

2/ The two parties also made the following decisions:

- launch of negotiations with a view to providing the Kingdom with satellite capabilities of observation and communication;

- finalization of the negotiations to provide fast patrol boats to the Saudi naval forces with a view to concluding by the end of 2015;

- establishment of a joint working group on naval projects;

- increase of cooperation in the field of military exercises and training in Saudi Arabia and France,

- negotiation of an agreement between the Ministries of Defence concerning scientific and technical cooperation.

In the field of aviation, the two parties noted the strong relationship between Saudi Arabia airlines and Airbus group and expressed satisfaction at the ongoing discussion between Saudia and Airbus to modernize and expand the Saudi Arabian airlines fleet through partnership on current and future Airbus programmes. The two parties are in discussion to establish industrial projects between Airbus and Saudi partners in the field of heavy carriers and other aerospace programs with a view to enhancing the Saudi Arabia industrial base in the aerospace field.

Furthermore the parties welcomed the decision to launch negotiations with Alstom for the “rolling stock” and “system” lots for the Mecca metro.

They welcomed the development of the reception of Saudi students and doctors with the removal of the cap on the bilateral medicine grants programme.

Lastly, they intend to facilitate the issuance of visas between the two countries for players working on strengthening their economic ties. They also welcomed the ratification of the agreement on the diplomatic visa exemption.

3/ The two countries reaffirm their support for an ambitious, equitable and successful outcome of the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December 2015. The agreement should aim to be in line with keeping the likely increase in global average temperature below 2°C from pre-industrial levels, taking into account the need to ensure sustainable development for all, and recognizing the importance of both mitigation and adaptation. Pursuing this, the agreement should promote the long-term transition of all countries towards low-greenhouse-gas-emitting development, in a manner that is comprehensive, cost-effective, diversified and resilient in the face of the expected impacts of climate change.

4/ Lastly, the two parties adopted an ambitious working programme for the upcoming Joint Commission sessions, which will contribute to strengthening their ties.

The French authorities thank the Saudi authorities for the quality of their stay in Riyadh. They will be delighted to host them for the third session of the Joint Commission, which will be held in Paris in (March) 2016./.

¹Source of English text: French Foreign Ministry.

Published on 21/10/2015

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