NSW, Chamber's News |
FACCI was at the Reception & Business Forum earlier this week with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and the leaders of French business and industry in the MEDEF delegation led by Guillaume Pepy and Ross McInnes.
The European Australiam Business Council was delighted to co-host the event at the magnificent Louis Vuitton Espace and grateful to CEO Adam Hamzah and L Catterton Chairman Philip Corne for their generous hospitality.
Premier Berejiklian highlighted the historical and economic ties between New South Wales and France, outlining the State’s dynamism in areas such as smart cities infrastructure, cyber security, agribusiness or fintech, which creates opportunities for a stronger bilateral relationship.
With six hundred French companies already operating in Australia, including almost all forty of the CAC40 index of France’s biggest firms, Minister Ayrault praised the new dynamism given to the bilateral relation by the choice of DCNS for the SEA1000 programme, hoping that this enhanced cooperation would also enhance the political, economic and cultural dimensions of the bilateral relationship. Calling for stronger collaboration, in particular around innovation, Minister Ayrault emphasised the capabilities of French companies in key sectors for the Australian economy.
The Minister also expressed strong support for the process underway to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement between the European Union and Australia.
Opening the Business Roundtable, EABC Deputy Chair and former Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean and delegation leader Guillaume Pepy outlined the complementarity between France and Australia, and the opportunities created by the choice of DCNS for a large ecosystem of companies. Beyond defence and innovation, there is also a strong mutual interest around renewable energies, infrastructure and on the blue economy. Both articulated the strategic importance of concluding the EU-Australia FTA as quickly as possible and the need to emphasise the benefits of trade for all citizens.
The exchange on energy showed that despite a very different energy mix, France and Australia could strongly benefit from their respective expertise, notably to address technical and baseload generation issues posed by the transition towards renewable energies. Discussions on infrastructure highlighted the strong engagement of French companies in Australia and their ability to handle complex projects such as the Sydney Metro Northwest or the Light Rail programme, all the way from conception to operation and maintenance, as well as to optimize existing infrastructure through innovative technologies.
Participants also exchanged views on the National Innovation and Science Agenda and the need to diversify research projects between France and Australia. French expertise in digital innovation could increase efficiency and provide solutions to key Australian sectors including mining, renewable energies, mobility and ICT. The open discussion then ranged over market design for renewable energies; the SEA1000 programme as a platform for French and Australian SMEs; the Australia-EU free trade agreement and its expected outcomes for businesses; as well as on investment strategies in France.
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