ANNEE DE LA FRANCE AU MINNESOTA / YEAR OF FRANCE IN MINNESOTA
Minneapolis (MN), le 7 février 2011. Discours prononcé par M. Graham PAUL, Consul général de France à Chicago à l’occasion de la soirée de lancement de l’Année de la France au Minnesota.
Minneapolis (MN), February 7, 2011. Speech given by Graham PAUL, Consul General of France in Chicago on the occasion the launch reception of the Year of France in Minnesota.
Mr State Secretary,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends of France,
I would like to thank you all for being here tonight for the kick off of the “Year of France” in Minnesota. It’s a very exciting project and I would like to begin by commending the Minnesota International Center, the Minneapolis/Tours sister city association as well as the French American Chamber of Commerce and the alliance française of Minneapolis/Saint Paul for joining forces to celebrate France, a fascinating European country with a lot to offer in terms of culture, science and economy. Those organizations have just presented to you the major events that will mark this Year of celebration.
France and Minnesota whose State motto is “l’étoile du Nord” have been tied since the first French explorers discovered the New World in the XVII century. They explored and settled in the Midwest, along the Mississippi River. I’m proud to say that my hometown, La Rochelle, was the main port of departure for expeditions at that time. Let me also recall that France was the first ally of the young United States and sent troops to help American colonies win their independence. 45,000 French soldiers headed by Lafayette played a crucial role in the battle of Yorktown. More recently, twice during the last century, the United States helped us to preserve our own independence and democracy.
Today, France and the U.S have a unique relationship based on multifaceted cooperation, common values and mutual fascination. Let me remind you that France is not only a beautiful country, with good food and good wine, which make it the first top tourist destination in the world, it is also the 5th largest economy in the world and the second largest in Europe. After the US and China, France is the world’s third largest recipient of Foreign Direct Investment. The US is the first foreign investor in France and the first destination of French investments. The US is also France’s largest trading partner outside of the EU. More than 1.2 billion $ in commercial transactions including those of US and French foreign affiliates take place every day. So France is offering a lot of opportunities for business. This will be the subject of a workshop organized tomorrow by Invest in France, the French-American Chamber of Commerce of Minneapolis/St Paul and the Minnesota Trade Office. An important symposium entitled “doing business with France” hosted by the Minnesota international Centre’s will take place on May 12 and will be attented by high ranking French officials. This symposium will also be held back-to-back with the national meeting of the 19 chapters of the French-American Chambers of Commerce in the United States.
2011 is a special occasion to celebrate all things French in Minnesota. In that context, today I would like to commend the work of the French honorary Consul, the Alliance française, the French-American Chamber of Commerce of Minneapolis/St Paul, the Minneapolis-Tours sister city association, and the different schools offering a French program. Their contribution in promoting exchanges, a better understanding and knowledge between French and American people is invaluable.
If I may, I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minneapolis Public Schools for the future opening of the Pierre Bottineau French immersion school.
Beyond the Guthrie Theatre designed by Jean Nouvel, France is already particularly present on the cultural scene of the twin cities. For instance, exhibitions like “the Louvre and the Masterpiece” and “the mourners : Medieval sculptures from the Count of Burgundy” currently at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Yves Klein’s exhibition, the Olivier Assayas French film retrospectives or the series of performances by French artists “l’effet de Serge” at the Walker Art Center are very good examples. I know you also have here a couple of excellent French restaurants and that you even have a club de pétanque in Minneapolis and a direct Delta flight to Paris seven days a week.
Let me conclude by reading the Proclamation issued by the Embassy of France in Washington DC in support of the Celebration of France in Minnesota :