Speech at the Nuit des étoiles
Chicago (IL), le 2 mars 2012. Discours prononcé par le Consul général de France à l’occasion de la Nuit des étoiles 2012
(Gala de la Chambre de Commerce Franco-Américaine de Chicago)
Chicago (IL), March 2, 2012. Speech given by the Consul General on the occasion of the "Nuit des étoiles", the Annual Gala of the French-American Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Chapter.
I would like to start by thanking and congratulating our gracious hosts, Juan Luis Goujon, President of the Chicago Chapter of the French-American Chamber of Commerce and Emmanuèle Van Houdenhoven, Executive Director, for organizing such an inspiring evening. Together, we are celebrating 20 years of la Nuit des Etoîles, 20 years of inspiration.
Last Sunday, in Hollywood, we celebrated a Night of the Stars where France shined. Without daring to quote the words of Jean Dujardin during acceptance speech, I will just say that tonight we are in for a terrific time !
Before addressing French-American relations, I would like to highlight the importance of the historical background between our two countries. France and the United States have been tied since the first French explorers discovered the New World in the XVII century. I’m proud to say that my hometown, La Rochelle, was the main port of departure for great expeditions. During the course of history, in times of difficulty and hardship, America and France have always stood side by side, supported one another, and fought for each other’s freedom. France was the first ally of the young United States and sent thousands of troops to help American colonies win their independence. Twice during the last century, the United States helped us preserve our independence and democracy. France will never forget the sacrifices made by so many Americans to restore our freedom. “The French will never forget” were the very words written on the massive Twin Towers replica displayed at the Trocadero, in front of the Eiffel Tower, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11.
France and the U.S have a unique relationship based on multifaceted cooperation and common values. Our two countries continue to share a global vision on the Challenges ahead. One of them is the smooth integration of the emerging countries in a world order which was originally defined without them 65 years ago. The question is how to generate adequate levels of international cooperation to effectively tackle a range of shared problems and to define a new cooperative pattern for global governance. Chicago, will be at the very heart of these crucial discussions during the G8 and NATO Summits in May.
As you know, France is not only what we see in woody Allen movies, and fashion magazines, a nice country with good food, good wine, or the first tourist destination in the world. France has much more to offer. It is a major economy providing countless opportunities for business and investments.
France, with a growing population of 64.3 million inhabitants, is the 5th largest economy in the world and the second largest in Europe. It is a country with top infrastructures in the areas of transportation and energy, the world’s second largest agricultural producer after the US.
France is an open economy with a global outlook. Foreign companies in France account for over 40 % of French exports and over 20 % of R&D spending.
France is a “scientific country” home of some of the best management, mathematics and engineering schools in the world and with the most attractive research tax credit in Europe.
The USA is France’s largest trading partner outside of the EU but more importantly, it is the first foreign investor in France and the first destination of French investments. In 2010, Illinois was ranked third among the top States expanding in France. One of the main recent investments was made by Kraft Foods who put about 20 million dollars towards a new European R&D center in Saclay, just outside of Paris. Let’s not forget other major local companies that have heavily invested in France like McDonald’s Corporation, The Sara Lee Corporation, Motorola, Abott, Caterpillar and many more. I would like to remind you that Invest in France has a dynamic office in Chicago and that Michel Gilbert, his President, is with us tonight.
Today, the Chicago area is benefiting from some 200 French companies generating around 25.000 jobs, among them, key companies such as Veolia Waters Americas, Schneider Electric, Alcatel/Lucent, BPI or Publicis just to name a few. They are active in many areas but especially strategic sectors and innovative industries : transit, water, energy and virtual connection ; all areas that will shape the economic future of this region and the quality of life of its inhabitants.
In that context, the French American Chamber of Commerce is doing an outstanding job in supporting and assisting French companies’ development and activities, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship by setting a strong network linking the French and American business community. The Chamber is also acting as a responsible citizen, contributing to attract new businesses to Chicago which enhances the City’s position as an international destination.
The Chamber serves as a dynamic platform for promoting dialogue and exchanges on issues of common interest. One of its targeted missions is to address the needs and expectations of the next generation, to provide them with the opportunity to play a role in French-American relations. The InterConnect program initiated by the Chicago Chapter of the French American Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with academic institutions, is an important tool that will help French Students and young graduates to have access to a first professional experience within American companies. It will also provide the partner companies with a well-educated, open-minded and highly motivated workforce. The program will help both the students and the companies to better confront the challenges of our increasingly globalized world.
The success and leadership of companies and people like you will be the source of inspiration for the business generation of tomorrow. It is now a great honor for me to present awards to some outstanding companies and their leaders. So let us proceed and I will let Emmanuèle introduce the Award Ceremony./.