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French business focuses on SMEs, green economy
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Editors' note: The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China (CCIFC) has long been dedicated to catering to French business activities in China. CCIFC President Annick de Kermadec-Bentzmann shares her views on Sino-French economic prospects with China Daily.

Q: Sustainability was a highlight of the 17th Party Congress while Europe has been a leader in emission control and energy efficiency. So what opportunities will China's focus on sustainable growth bring to French companies?

A: France's new President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has clearly demonstrated a strong commitment to environmental issues.

French enterprises, as world leaders in this field with acknowledged highly advanced and performing technologies, could bring China many benefits. A number of French companies are already very active in contributing to environmental conservation and sustainable development in China.

Q: Small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) have been a vibrant force in bilateral economic cooperation. What is the progress in this field?

A: China is one of the top five countries with which France targets a reinforced bilateral trade. The French government strongly encourages French SMEs to invest in China, launching a special scheme of China Cap Export to provide financial support as well as tax rebate.

Christine Lagarde, former French Secretary of External Trade and presently Minister of Economy and Industry, has visited China nearly 20 times in recent years - another sign of France's strong commitment to the country.

About 40 percent of CCIFC's member companies have fewer than 250 employees, and the chamber has various departments targeting different needs of upstream and downstream member groups.

In 2006, around 200 SMEs received advice from our commercial teams. Missions are organized to guide these firms in their search for partners and/or suppliers.

The CCIFC e-newsletter "France-China express" provides useful and practical information. A number of working groups are also of great help to these businesses.

Q: Services has been an area of advantage for French companies. How can they better tap the potential in China?

A: About half of the French enterprises in China are in the tertiary sector. For instance, the banking sector is improving and developing its services every day with the evolution of Chinese laws.

Of the rest, 40 percent are in the industrial sectors and 10 percent in the food and household supplies industries.

The retail sector is growing steadily, led by Carrefour and Auchan. French hotel chain Accor has set up ambitious projects throughout China. Consulting firms are fast increasing their presence and they are not only confined to the three largest cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Q: EU is calling on China to give easier access to European companies. How can French companies increase their business in China?

A: With a total of 250,000 employees, French companies in China notched up 20 billion euros ($29.43 billion) in sales revenues in 2006, an annual increase of 25 percent.

Last year, trade volume rose by 10 percent. The trade gap between China and France is narrowing. However, there still is a high growth potential for French enterprises in China, as France's market share was only 1.4 percent in 2006.

Considering the fast economic growth of China, French enterprises specializing in fields like hi-tech, environment, telecom, finance and agro-food should be in a better position to enter the Chinese market successfully.

The 2008 Olympic Games and the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 will bring more opportunities and challenges for all enterprises.

(China Daily November 26, 2007)

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