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May 2015, Rouen | Speech from Mohamed Ben Laden

“Mr. Vice-President of the Regional Council,
Mr. President of the Metropole,

On behalf of the delegation of Saudi businessmen that I have the pleasure of leading, I would like to thank you for your kind invitation to Rouen. After having met with our Parisian counterparts at MEDEF [a French federation of employers] on Tuesday morning, it is a great pleasure for us to be here to meet the businessmen of Normandy. I would like to thank Business France for having organized this meeting. I would also like to thank Ambassador Jean-Louis Zoël, Economic Ambassador for the Upper Normandy region. Upper Normandy is a region that the Saudi-French Business Council is very familiar with—we were here in April 2012 (in Rouen and in Le Havre). This meeting is very important for us, because now that most of the major CAC40 companies are established in the Kingdom, it is now pertinent to attract SMEs [small and medium-sized companies] and ETIs [intermediate-sized companies] to Saudi
Arabia, so that they can support the Kingdom’s economic diversification effort. I hope the Normandy businesses will lead the way. Even though Saudi Arabia is already France’s top trading partner in the Middle East, there are still many domains in which French expertise is needed, and numerous potential sectors of Saudi-French industrial cooperation: aeronautics, health, urban services, energy efficiency, food processing… Furthermore, this meeting comes at a formative moment in our bilateral relationship. In early May, French President François Hollande made an official visit to Riyadh as the guest of honor at the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, marking a new phase in the already very strong relationship between our two countries. The converging views between France and Saudi Arabia on all regional issues (fighting ISIS, Iran’s nuclear program, the conflict in Yemen, etc.) has greatly strengthened our bilateral relationship, particularly at the economic and industrial levels. Therefore, it is the ideal time for businesses in Rouen and Normandy to establish themselves in Saudi Arabia. In fact, as Ambassador Besancenot and Ali Al-Qarni will have the opportunity to speak to us about (and I would like to express my gratitude to them for their support), the creation of a joint committee was announced during François Hollande’s visit. The committee’s objectives are to engender significant investments in France and prompt a proliferation of Saudi-French industrial projects.
It is in this very promising context that the 2nd Saudi-French Business Opportunities Forum will be held on October 12 & 13 in Riyadh. This forum will be organized by the Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry, the Council of Saudi Chambers, our Embassy in Riyadh, and the Saudi-French Business Council. On this occasion, MEDEF International and Business France will organize a major delegation of French companies in Saudi Arabia. I hope that many companies from Normandy will take part in it.
That is the entire reason for our visit to Rouen with the French Ambassador today: to convince you of the existing opportunities for your companies in Saudi Arabia and to encourage you to take advantage of the very positive political dynamics for entering the Saudi market.Thank you for your attention. The Ambassador, the Chargé d’Affaires, and I are ready to answer any questions you might have about the Saudi market and its specificities”
Mohamed Ben Laden