Miami talks to help 30 French firms launch in US
By Rachel Tannenbaum
Tourism, airports and luxury goods are strong points in the French economy as well as South Florida's, which is one reason French businesses see Miami as a cultural and economic hub, France's secretary of state for trade said at a global Miami Beach symposium last week that laid foundations for 30 French firms to open in the US.
"There is a lot of opportunity for investment and interest into this [the South Florida] market," Frederic Lefebvre, the trade secretary, told Miami Today. "The general idea of the symposium is to discuss global economic situations, which is really part of any symposium on trade."
More than 600 business persons gathered at the Eden Roc Hotel Feb. 8 and 9 for the first Worldwide Symposium of the Foreign Trade Advisors of France to discuss the new global reality.
"It's the biggest gathering of French businesspeople ever," said French Consul General in Miami Gael de Maisonneuve.
Participating speakers included business executives and diplomats, among them Thomas R. Nides, US deputy secretary of state for management and resources; Sergio Diaz-Granados, Colombia's minister of commerce and industry; Pierre-Marc Johnson, former prime minister of Quebec; Jean-Paul Betbeze, head of economic research for Credit Agricole Bank; Michael L. Ducker, COO and international president of FedEx; Eugenio Minvielle, president and CEO of Unilever North America; and Pierre Gauthier, president and CEO of Alstom USA Canada.
Companies represented included Air France, Dassault,
Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, Quiksilver, Accor, Credit Agricole, Dalkia, United Water, CIC Banque Transatlantique, Pomagalski, Bouygues, Club Mediterranee, Clarins and Sanofi.
As for the session being in Miami-Dade, Mr. Lefebvre said Miami is a crossroads for international business and culture.
"Miami is a town that is
moving and in the age of globalization, we have to move,"
Mr. Lefebvre said. "We have
to reform and to search new projects."
Miami is strategic for France for many reasons, which include tourism, he said.
"Miami is a place of tourism in the United States, and tourism is important for France too because it boosts growth," Mr. Lefebvre said. "Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama said he wanted the United States to take first place in tourism, but we have first place. I am working to reinforce our relationship because I think — like President Obama — tourism is an asset for world growth."
Both nations have the same spirit of conquest, he added.
Another strong sector for both countries, he said, is airports.
"The airport industry is
one of our strong forces," Mr. Lefebvre said. "In Miami this industry is also so important because it involves so many French companies."
In Florida, Mr. Lefebvre said, about 200 French companies are active, generating about 20,000 jobs.
"It is important for Florida but also very important for France," Mr. Lefebvre said.
Jean-Francois Boittin, France's minister counselor of economic and commercial affairs, told Miami Today the symposium was a large debate about globalization that eases new French businesses into the American market.
"Thirty French SMES [small and medium enterprises] are going to discover the American market," Mr. Boittin said. "They are going to be coached about the American market and how to bring their stuff and sell their stuff in the US thanks to the advice that is going to be given to them by the "old timers.'"
"Old timers," he said, are French businesses that currently operated in Florida.
Although his trip to Miami mostly revolved around the symposium, Mr. Lefebvre said he wanted to visit the Design District, home to over 130 showrooms, art galleries and stores. He said the district can benefit France.
In fact, prominent French luxury goods companies already are flocking to the Design District. Hermes plans to double its present size in Miami-Dade to 10,000 square feet in a move there in fall 2013, with a temporary site due this year. Louis Vuitton, like Hermes owned by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, also plans a 2014 opening. Cartier too plans a Design District site.
"I am working in France to marry the craftsmen and designers because craftsmen identify the tradition and designers install the future and the time, so it is interesting for me to see a project of a Design District," Mr. Lefebvre said. "If we gather them and they work together it could be very strong for our country."
Mr. Lefebvre said in France he meets three times a week with big players in the economy, not just from France but from around the world.
"It is so important for France to be close to the economic actors — even the French economic actors who are all over the world — because businesses are beginning to invest far from France," he said.
Energy, optimism and confidence are very important in an economic crisis, he said, and Miami has a lot of energy.
"I think Miami is magic because it gives the power to gather everybody together," Mr. Lefebvre said. "That's why we choose Miami."
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