for partnership and investment in the manufacturing sector is a
multisectoral French trade mission, which had a meeting with officials
of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday.
Ismail A. Abudawood chaired the meeting, which discussed a wide range
of subjects aimed at boosting bilateral trade and examining the
prospects for increased joint ventures.
“Each of the
delegation’s 30 members representing 20 companies has some project
to offer. They are encouraged by the recent changes in investment
regulations and increased oil prices that have triggered intense
business activity, especially in the last 12 to 18 months,” Patrice
Douce, delegation leader and co-chairman of Saudi French Business
Dialogue at the Paris-based French Business Confederation (MEDEF
International), told a press conference after the meeting.
“A number of
French companies are adapting to the new global economic order, which
is highly competitive. The delegation’s visit to this part of the
world is timely as it represents interests in water technology, power
supply, ecology and waste treatment. The Kingdom has become the most
important for us in the Gulf because its potential is vast and its
population rapidly increasing,” said Douce, who was accompanied by
Michel Habib-Deloncle, former minister and president of the
Paris-based French-Arab Chamber of Commerce. Also present were French
Ambassador Bernard Poletti, Consul General Alain Azouaou, Herve
Piquet, economic and commercial counselor at the French Embassy in
Riyadh, and Rene Cochard, commercial counselor at the French Consulate
lies in helping the Kingdom manufacture products so that it can reduce
imports and open up job avenues. This is possible through partnership
and investment. Our companies represent a wide field of activity
including food, health care, pharmaceutical, home equipment, road
building, sewage disposal and hotels. We’ve even bankers exploring
this huge market...,” Douce said.
Referring to the
inclusion of TotalFinaElf in the eight international firms selected
for the Saudi gas initiative, Douce said: “The French international
giant is the world’s fourth in oil and gas highly equipped with gas
technology, so we’re highly pleased with its choice. In fact, Total
worked on major projects in the Kingdom before its merger last
discussion, JCCI officials told the visitors about the new Umrah
regulations and the opening up of the tourism sector. “Your tourists
can now come here like Japanese and others who have already started
visiting,” one of them said.
Saudi Arabia is a
major trading partner for France in the Middle East as well as the
rest of the world. The bilateral trade volume, which has remained in
the Kingdom’s favor, has regularly grown during the last four years.
It is characterized by a high structural deficit for France (4.11
billion French francs in 1999) due to the high level of French imports
of oil and oil products. Due to the weakening of the European currency
against the dollar, and the sharp increase of oil prices, “this
structural deficit should increase in the current year,” according
to French officials. The mission left for Riyadh later yesterday.