Interview: Nicole Bricq
The market share of French companies in Turkey has decreased in recent years. What can be done to counter this trend and increase involvement?
That is not entirely accurate. Admittedly, our market share has eroded slightly, but it actually saw an upswing in 2012 when Turkey was our fourth-biggest non-EU trading partner behind the US, China and Russia. Sales of French goods and services in Turkey exceeded €7bn in 2012, considerably higher than for any of the other major emerging economies such as Brazil, India or South Africa. We can still do better; we have not looked closely enough at potential avenues for greater cooperation between our two countries in sectors as diverse as energy, health care and welfare, and sustainable city development. I made this point – successfully, I believe – on my last visit to Turkey.
The previous French administration was strongly opposed to Turkey’s accession into the EU. Why have you decided to revitalise EU accession talks?
Turkey is a great nation. This opinion is held by François Hollande, President of the French Republic, who is aware of the importance of the relationship between the two countries. The fact that a key emerging economy such as Turkey is looking to join the European Union is a sign of how important the latter is on the world stage and of its appeal to investors.
France is in favour of resuming Turkey’s EU accession negotiations (especially on Chapter 22). Unlike the previous government, we would like to debate this matter calmly, and above all else, debate it in a way that is not purely to win votes.
In your view, what are the principal benefits and challenges that Turkish accession into the EU would bring to both parties?
The total and reciprocal opening up of European and Turkish markets would be the principal benefit. This would generate synergies between our two economies and could open the doors to other foreign markets for France, especially those where Turkey has traditionally held sway, either in Africa or elsewhere. Our economies are indeed complementary in many respects.
What sectors of the economy do you expect to be the primary focus of future commercial partnerships between France and Turkey?
First, and most obviously, the aviation sector. During my last visit to Turkey, I attended the official signing of the major contract between Pegasus Airlines and Airbus. Since my return, Turkish Airlines has confirmed its order for nearly 120 Airbus aircraft, one of the biggest orders that Airbus has ever received. More than a mere client, Turkey is actually a partner to Europe’s aviation industry, as Turkish companies are heavily involved in construction programmes within the sector. In addition, France is in a position to cooperate with Turkey in the field of nuclear energy. That sums up the most important contracts at the present time.
We must also set tough targets for our more standard sectors of trade, be it in cosmetics, fragrances, chemicals or even sustainable cities. With this in mind, we officially launched a study to look into the feasibility of building an eco-district in the city of Gaziantep during my last Turkish trip. This is another area of development that I would like to see prosper.
Additionally, we are investing considerable amounts of money in Turkey. Close to 400 French companies employing some 400,000 people have set up shop there. We are determined to play a role in a multitude of new projects, especially the proposed third airport in Istanbul. As one of the world’s top emerging economies, Turkey is clearly a key market for France.
Finally, it should be noted that there are ample opportunities within the French economy for Turkish businesses. France is an attractive country for investors. It is first in Europe based on investment in industry. There are still too few Turkish investors in France. On my last trip there, I urged Turkish companies to invest in our manufacturing and industrial sectors, in particular.
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