Amb. Delattre Speaks on French-U.S. Partnership at SAIS
JAMES MANN: OK, I think we’re about to get started.
I’m Jim Mann. I’m organizing the spring lectures for SAIS’ European and Eurasian Studies program. I have the extraordinary honor today to introduce someone I’ve known as one of the best diplomats in Washington for many years, Francois Delattre, who is now the French ambassador to the United States.
When I first knew him it was the late ’90s and the early 2000s, and he was the press counselor. He’s had a long and distinguished career. He seems to be in the right place at the right time. He was serving in the French embassy in Germany during and at the time of unification in ’89 to ’91. He succeeded in not being in the French embassy in Washington during a certain moment, passing moment, between 2002 and 2004, returned to the — to serve as consul general — as consul general in New York and has been since 2011 the ambassador to the United States.
So without further — he is going to speak, and then there will be some time for question and answer, so — Ambassador? (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR FRANCOIS DELATTRE: Thank you very much, Jim, for your kind introduction. Actually, it’s true that we’ve known each other for almost 15 years now, and he’s getting younger and younger, and I’m getting older every day.
It’s such a pleasure for our press attaché, Dana Pucarescu, and for me to be here with you tonight. It’s a great privilege to speak to such a distinguished audience.
I would like to extend my warm thanks to Dean Vali Nasr for inviting me today. Vali and his lovely wife are dear friends of my wife and mine. And you are, mon cher Vali, an incredibly talented and respected dean.
A special word of thanks also to Jim Mann, to the European and Eurasian Studies Program, which organized this event.
One of your missions at SAIS is to connect America and the world, so today I feel I’m the world, and here you recognize the traditional and well-known French modesty, of course.
You asked me to speak about the new opportunities in the Franco- American and trans-Atlantic partnerships. And actually, this discussion could not have come at a more perfect time, two months to the day after President Hollande’s very successful state visit to the United States, both here in Washington and then on the West Coast in San Francisco. This was a big thing for us, the first state visit of a French president in nearly 20 years.
And it reminds me of the state visit of President Kennedy to France back in ’60s, when Jackie Kennedy came with President Kennedy. And Jackie Kennedy was a bit intimidated by President de Gaulle. And so she went to General de Gaulle and she said: Monsieur le President, you know I have French roots. And General de Gaulle, aloof, only answered, I have too, Madam. (Laughter.) Welcome to France. (Laughter.)
Speaking of French-American relations, I believe it’s important to start with the values that our two countries share. These values of freedom and democracy are really at the core of our common DNA. That’s what makes our friendship, the Franco-American friendship, truly unique, I believe.
Let’s never forget that the United States and France owe each other their very existence as free nations. And that from Lafayette and Yorktown to the battlefields of World War I and the beaches of Normandy, our two countries, have always stood shoulder to shoulder to promote the values I was referring to. And I think it’s important for you, younger generations, to keep that in mind. And it means a lot in today’s world.
Actually, one of the key messages of the state visit is that our shared values do matter in the 21st century. That’s why President Hollande and President Obama went to Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, former ambassador to France, who really embodied the historic bonds between our two countries.
That’s why President Hollande bestowed the Legion of Honor — France’s highest award — upon six American veterans of World War II at the very moving ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. And we are glad that President Obama will go to Normandy on June 6th to bestow also the Legion of Honor upon some veterans and to participate in the 70th anniversary of the commemorations of the D-Day landings.
Now, against this backdrop — this historical backdrop, I have good news.
French-American relations have never been stronger than they are today, as exemplified by the state visit that we’re referring to. If you think about it, on the diplomatic and security front, the U.S. and France are each other’s closest allies in the fight against terrorism, as illustrated by France military operation in Mali, the heart of Africa, to combat al-Qaida, with much-appreciated American support by the way.
Actually, Mali was a much larger, bigger operation than reported in the American press because we had to fight there against one of the most — one of the best trained, best funded, best equipped al-Qaida branches in the world based on years, if not decades, of drug trafficking, weapons and secret smuggling, and so on and so forth. Alongside our African partners, with American and European support, we restored security in this country. We also succeeded in initiating a political process that led to free election and to a new president in this country.
I think it’s important for this country and for you — for the younger generations in particular — to keep in mind that Mali and the Sahel as a whole should remain a priority for the years to come. The international community has to stay committed to this region, to Africa in general, in terms of security, but also in terms of economic development. This is true for other African countries, like the Central African Republic, CAR.
CAR, at the heart of Africa, is going through a humanitarian and political crisis of unprecedented gravity, with daily atrocities and a growing hostility between the Christian majority and the Muslim minority there. Furthermore, the implosion of this country, CAR, would destabilize this whole — this whole region in Africa.
That’s why France has deployed 2,000 troops in this country — alongside African forces and, here again, with much-appreciated American support — to contribute, to prevent, I would say, a potential near-genocide. And we have been working hard, literally for months to, so to speak, mobilize the international community in CAR.
The good news is that last week the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2149, allowing the deployment of a peacekeeping operation in CAR by September the 15th.
This is a diplomatic success, not only for us, but for the entire international community. And here too, as I said, the United States is truly standing by our side.
The United States and France are also at the forefront of international efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state. With the partners of the so-called P-5 plus one, we are working hard to try to achieve a comprehensive agreement with Iran, whose goal is to prevent this country from developing nuclear weapons and to obtain all necessary assurances that its nuclear program remains peaceful.
We have to stay — that’s France’s position that we have to stay firm on this for at least three reasons, I would say: number one, because a nuclear-armed Iran would be an existential threat to the security of Israel; number two, because a nuclear-armed Iran would trigger an arms race and potentially a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, meaning in the most — one of the most volatile regions in the world; and number three, a nuclear-armed Iran would mean the demise of the international nonproliferation regime that we together patiently built over the past decades. And for these reasons and a couple of others, we simply have to negotiate, of course, with Iran in good faith but also to remain firm on our fundamentals.
Now, a few words on the economic front, where the French-American partnership is also growing stronger every year. The U.S. is France’s largest commercial partner outside the European Union, and cross- investment is the backbone of our economic partnership. France is one of the top five foreign investors in this country with 3,000 French companies supporting more than 600,000 American jobs. Conversely, the U.S. is the number one foreign investor in France. And by the way,
American investment to France is on the rise again, which is good news.
One word on this to tell you that innovation is really France’s number one, number two and number three priority, and it’s also one of my key priorities as ambassador. To give you just one illustration of this, I would say that every day, we at the embassy conclude or help conclude agreements between American and French universities and research centers on exchanges of students, on scientific partnerships, on collaborations between the incubators of these universities and research centers, leading to new business startup, leading to job creation.
It should come as no surprise, for example, that Stanford University chose Palaiseau near Paris to create there its European entrepreneurship center.
It means a lot, and it says a lot about the fact that in France, entrepreneurship, contrary to what you can read here and there, is booming like never before, and is driven by innovation most of the time; the two go together.
Now, what about the trans-Atlantic partnership? Actually, we French strongly believe that the more Asia and the emerging world are rising — which is a good thing — the more the trans-Atlantic partnership is vital for all of us, Europeans and Americans alike, as one of the backbones of today’s and tomorrow’s military (power ?) world.
It’s true, on the strategic and security front, the Ukrainian crisis, another example of very close cooperation between our two countries, is a strong reminder that the trans-Atlantic partnership is today as relevant and vital as ever.
NATO remains an unmatched alliance, an anchor of stability. That is one of the reasons why we French rejoined NATO’s military command structure a few years ago, and as the Obama administration is encouraging us to establish a stronger European pillar within NATO, I believe it’s important to remember that France and Britain together account for more than 60 percent of the total military spending of the 28 members of the European Union.
Now, the critical importance of the trans-Atlantic partnership also holds true on the economic front, where Europe and America remain the anchor of the world economy, accounting together for nearly 50 percent of the world’s GDP, a third of international trade and about two-thirds of the world’s innovation process. Moreover, 15 million jobs on the two sides of the Atlantic are directly linked to the trans-Atlantic trade and cross-investment — 15 million jobs.
To enhance this economic partnership between the two sides of the Atlantic, we are committed to a very, I would say, exciting and challenging endeavor, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the so-called TTIP. We all know these negotiations are not easy. For instance, we know that regulatory convergence and the lifting of nontariff barriers will be central to the negotiations that are going on and require a bold approach. Actually, no one ever has done what we are trying to achieve together, bringing, you know, Europe and the United States together. But as President Hollande clearly reaffirmed to President Obama during the state visit, France wants the success and strongly support TTIP, both for the direct benefits that such an agreement will bring to us in terms of jobs, in terms of investment, in terms of trade, but also for the impact that such a trans-Atlantic agreement can have globally in terms of setting new rules, new norms and new standards.
So let me underline that the trans-Atlantic relationship is critical if we are to meet some of the key global challenges of our time, such as climate change. This is, as you know, one of France’s very top priorities, fighting against climate change. We’ll host in Paris in 2015 a major U.N. conference on this issue to help broker an agreement on further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions after 2020, and we are working hand in hand with our American friends here and other friends around the world, including China, India, Brazil and others, to try to get an agreement. This is one of the most important diplomatic endeavors if we believe in what we do as diplomats and if we believe in the future of our children and grandchildren.
So the message I wanted to convey tonight is that there are many new opportunities on every front in the Franco-American and trans- Atlantic partnership, and that these partnerships have never been as vital as they are today for us, Americans and Europeans alike, but also for the world.
Let me conclude on this positive note and on the values of freedom and democracy I was referring to in my introduction. In today’s testing and challenging times, as illustrated by the Ukrainian crisis, these values that we have in common are more than ever our best guide — I would even say our best moral compass — to confront together the current challenges we face.
Merci beaucoup ./.