Business in France is at the center of the storm. Business France was created in January 2015 thanks to the merger of Ubifrance, which made central public support for exports, the French Agency for International Investments (AFII) responsible for gravity, the subject of a preliminary investigation, opened in March 2017 by the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office.
After the first detection Chained duckThere are suspicions of nepotism, collusion and cover-up. Specifically, it is suspected that the government agency commissioned Havas without a bid to organize an evening to celebrate French startups in Las Vegas in January 2016, during the Consumer Electronic Show (CES), the big meeting of the world. High technology, in which Emmanuel Macron was the guest of honor.
Wednesday daily Release Revealed information that will show that the former director general of the agency, who now heads the Ministry of Labor, is suspected of concealing some mistakes in an attempt to acquit Emmanuel Macron and his government, which would have paid Business France. To organize this evening urgently.
On June 20, police searches were carried outThe Central Office for Combating Corruption and Financial and Tax Violations (OCLCIFF) At the headquarters of the Havas Group and at the headquarters of Business France as part of this initial investigation. According to our information, this visit has left tangible traces within Business France. “The search is not a simple courtesy visit… It is a very painful experience‘ says a source familiar with the matter.
While waiting for justice to highlight each other’s responsibilities in this case, Business France’s workforce may have little time to recover from their emotions. Unfortunately.
And Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, determined to give the budget a role in solving the problem to allow France to honor its societal commitments in terms of public deficit reduction, warned: that tough decisions will have to be made. It is clear that budget cuts are expected and Business France may suffer the consequences.
The matter is already on the table of the Ministers of Economy and Foreign Affairs, who share the agency’s oversight. According to our information, ministerial meetings are underway on the status of the new agency, without its members being able to participate, which determines its future.
Rumors are circulating
What decisions can be made at the end of these meetings, which are attended by only a few ministerial advisers? Numerous rumors circulate, ending with the destabilization of forces already forcefully tested by the successive reforms that changed Ubifrance and AFII, until the last time they validated their merger in 2015.
In order to rationalize public spending, the two cabinets envisage a clear and simple dismantling of the agency. The export division (formerly Ubifrance) can be integrated into Bpifrance, the public investment bank, which will thus complement its area of expertise. Remember that Business France counts Bbifrance among its clients and actually bills them for international support services.
Moreover, the two parties are already working together. Since May 2013, Bpifrance, Ubifrance – then Business France – Coface and regions of France have been cooperating under Bpifrance export, a structure that brings together under the same name the public bodies responsible for supporting companies in export. During the presidential campaign, candidate Macron repeatedly announced his intention to simplify Bpifrance and Business France to improve their procedures.
The gravity portion can be placed under the authority of the prime minister, via a high commissioner in charge of gravity for example. Unless Bercy or Quai d’Orsay wants to take over that file. As for the communication and promotion part, it will be directed to the State Information Service (GIS) responsible for highlighting the origins of our country, in France and abroad.
With this strategy, the government can make some savings. The agency, which has nearly 1,500 people in its workforce, has an annual budget of around 100 million euros. By dividing Business France in this way, one can think that the government will cut some jobs. The risk of social harm is particularly high in the export segment, which employs about 1,300 people.
chronic trade deficit
Admittedly, some promising results were recorded by the Export department of Business France. The number of corporate sponsors and Corporate International Volunteers (VIE) sent abroad has increased. But this did not manage to forget the chronic nature of the trade deficit and its stability, and even the decrease in the number of exporting companies. France has barely 120,000, which is two times less than Italy and three times less than Germany. Of course, Business France is not entirely responsible for this situation, but it is a ready angle of attack for its critics who accuse the agency of outsmarting and competing with them.
“The Medef Chambers of Commerce and Industry have destroyed the image of Ubifrance and Business France, as if they were the only ones responsible for the mistakes of French foreign trade. It’s better for them to sweep outside their doors. Who better than Medef and CCI can spot potential export champions? We are still waiting for its results in this area.‘, explains a connoisseur of the mysteries of the Tricolor Foreign Trade Apparatus.
This shredding would have another advantage of the executive, of a financial nature. By distributing its forces in this way (the former AFII employees are mainly located outside France, in 70 offices located abroad), Business France can leave its headquarters on Boulevard Saint-Jacques in the 14th arrondissement, the building acquired in 2006 thanks to the resale The former private palace of Roland Bonaparte, the historic residence of the French Center for Foreign Trade (CFCE). By putting it back on the market, the country that owns it can get good capital gains.
If this scenario materializes, rumors can explode by condemning the country’s complete lack of strategic vision in the economic sphere. As the marriage of carp and hare within Ubifrance and AFII themselves, the amalgamation of these two agencies into a single entity was never unanimous, as their staff struggled to work together and accumulate their strength, in France and abroad.
Another possible scenario
Another hypothesis is on the table. In the event that Business France retains its identity and all its functions, it would be surprising nonetheless to go through the drops. Austerity is already threatening. To implement these structural reforms, a new government is possible with a non-political CEO with the rank of ambassador, assisted by a Director General.
Until 2015, the president from the political class was a member of the board of directors. Jean-Paul Paquet, PS Vice-President from Puy-de-Dôme, was the last so far, before Muriel Benecaud combined the job of General Manager and Ambassador.
For the CEO position, only one name is being traded: Ross McCains. This former banker (Kleinwort Benson, then Continental Bank, now Bank of America), former industrialist (Safran) has been the economic ambassador of Il-de-France since the end of 2016. Why is he? First of all, he is a member of civil society, this is the condition indispensable condition imposed by the government to fill this position.
A duo on top of Business France
Another advantage is that he knows the sector well. In February 2015, he was appointed Special Representative for Relations with Australia by the Foreign Office to promote bilateral trade between the two countries and enhance France’s attractiveness to Australian investors. He did his job brilliantly. It has already been involved in the success of DCNS which, in April 2016, won the Contract of the Century: to supply Canberra with twelve submarines, for €35 billion over fifty years.
Who can help him? In Business France, and in particular among former Ubifrance members, we dream of the return of Christophe Lecourtier, former General Manager of Ubifrance from 2008 to 2014, currently the Ambassador of France to … Australia and who according to our information welcome back to Rue Saint-Jacques where he left good memories. During his tenure, he successfully reformed Ubifrance for the first time while limiting staff cutbacks.