China is one of the five countries to receive a visit from the “Say OUI to France, say OUI to innovation” campaign roadshow, which came to town on December 6-11. David Appia, Chairman and CEO of the IFA, traveled to Beijing for the occasion and then on to the roadshow’s last stop, Shanghai.
The IFA’s China offices were recently expanded and now include a team of nine people split between the main office in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
As soon as Mr. Appia landed, he joined up with Mr. Pascal Gondrand, Director of IFA China, to attend a reception hosted by the Pays de la Loire region at the French Embassy in China to mark a visit from Mr. Jacques Auxiette, President of the Pays de la Loire Regional Council. Ms. Sylvie Bermann, the French Ambassador to China, opened proceedings by reciting a list of achievements through joint initiatives targeting the Chinese business community and lauded the IFA’s presence in Beijing.
Jacques Auxiette, opening speech.
The next morning, Mr. Appia sat down with Chen Jian, Vice-Minister of MOFCOM (Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China) with responsibility for foreign investment and economic cooperation matters.
The two parties highlighted their desire to maintain and strengthen the partnership between the IFA and MOFCOM and their mutual aspiration to carry out joint initiatives to make it even easier for Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in France. In a few short years, China has become a key international investor. The size of the European market is attracting Chinese investors and France is one of the leading destinations for these investments in Europe.
“There are more than 200 subsidiaries of mainland Chinese companies in France today, employing nearly 7,000 people”, noted Mr. Appia. When added to the ranks of Hong Kong subsidiaries in France, employee numbers rise to 12,000.
Both men pointed to the vast potential of bilateral investment between France and China since French companies are also investing heavily overseas, especially in China. The Vice-Minister concluded by reiterating the need to “continue fostering an environment that encourages bilateral investment, and which is mutually beneficial to both our countries”, and was quick to add that “China is eager to make many more investments and for that to happen we must keep talking and continue to learn more about one another”.
Next was a meeting with executives from the China Economic Consulting Corporation (CECC), which is supported by the think tank CCIEE (China Center for International Economic Exchanges).
David Appia, IFA Chairman and CEO
Lead-ins to the talk included a screening of the official campaign video and a presentation on its key topics, which then led on to a conversation about the positive health of Chinese investments. There are currently 18,000 Chinese companies investing in foreign countries and France is a popular location. In 2011, it was home to 13% of Chinese investment projects in Europe, making it the continent’s third largest recipient of job-creating foreign investment from China, with 23 such projects generating over 1,000 jobs!
Mr. Appia then attended a meeting with the local Conseillers du Commerce Extérieur de la France (French Foreign Trade Advisors), who for more than 110 years have been volunteering their experience to further France’s economic presence throughout the world. Mr. Appia opened his speech by recalling their leading role as invaluable torchbearers in the promotion of France’s investment attractiveness and the great importance of speaking to them personally about the current campaign seeking to further this mission in partnership with the INPI (French Patent and Trademark Office).
The first day of talks ended on an enjoyable note with leading figures from the Chinese Entrepreneur Club (CEC) at a dinner attended by a group of Chinese entrepreneurs. Guests engaged in lively conversations mainly about the excellent relations between China and France and the steady growth of Chinese investment in France.
The next morning the roadshow headed to a round table attended by a host of journalists from the top Chinese media outlets, including China Business Journal, Caixin Media and China Business News Daily, where they discussed the fundamental messages of the campaign being backed by Fleur Pellerin, Minister Delegate for SMEs, Innovation and Digital Economy. They also touched upon the French government’s most recent reforms to boost France’s competitiveness, including the “National Pact for Growth, Competitiveness and Employment” that Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault unveiled on November 6.
Media round table for the launch of the "Say OUI to France - Say OUI to innovation" campaign in China
The pact, which increases France’s attractiveness for foreign investors, includes the renewal of the research tax credit, which was hailed by Mr. Appia: “Launched in 2008, 7,000 companies are currently benefiting from the research tax credit in France, which is the only country to offer such a generous measure”. Discussions with these journalists were also an opportunity to swap memorable success stories of Chinese companies setting up in France, including ChemChina/Bluestar, Lenovo, Weichai Power, Sinomac, ZTE and Haier, to name but a few.
The IFA then attended the 11th China Entrepreneur Summit, a key event to promote innovative companies. Around 40 new innovative companies attended the “Future Star Club” dinner, which included last year’s winners and 21 companies handpicked for their growth and innovation potential. Many members of the ICT and e-commerce communities were there, but there were also a number of firms from the manufacturing, healthcare and education sectors, among others. Guests also rubbed shoulders with the founders and CEOs of companies like Ctrip Travel Network, Chinasoft, Five Star and Sinomen Technology Limited.
David Appia at the Futur Star Club dinner organized for the 11th China Entrepreneur Summit
The IFA was a partner of the “Future Star Club” dinner, where Mr. Appia opened his presentation with the campaign video. He then delivered vital messages to the young innovative entrepreneurs in the audience. “France is a vibrant market and a global economic leader that is open to international investment and ready to receive large numbers of Chinese investments. In our country you will find an innovation-friendly environment, with 71 innovation clusters in a broad range of sectors that generate multidisciplinary partnerships”. He also made certain to tell the dinner guests about the special advantages France offers young innovative companies, which include reduced taxes and social security contributions.
David Appia meeting young innovative entrepreneurs in China
Mr. Appia also took the opportunity to announce the findings of the “Top 100 Global Innovators” study conducted by Thomson Reuters – which ranked France once again as the third leading country in the world for innovation, with 13 French companies and bodies in the Top 100 most innovative organizations in 2012 – before concluding with the campaign slogan “Say OUI to France, say OUI to innovation!”
The Beijing based IFA team meeting entrepreneurs
The roadshow then went on to Shanghai to meet with other influential Chinese media, including the Oriental Morning Post. Mr. Appia also met with a renowned economist from the Lujiazui International Finance Research Center at the prestigious China Europe International Business School (CEIBS).
Mr. Appia and Mr. Gondrand subsequently had a chance to travel around the Shanghai area to visit and tour Chinese companies (in a range of sectors: industry, energy, etc.) that have already invested in France. The meetings were a chance to strengthen old ties and remind all the companies that the IFA is available and remains committed to supporting them every step of the way.
Meeting a company based in Shanghai
This marked the end of the “Say OUI to France – Say OUI to Innovation” campaign roadshow, but the campaign itself continues, so stay posted to the IFA blog for more events in 2013!