Despite the sanctions, French investment in Russia has been growing. There is political will on both sides to end the sanctions war and improve the economic relations.
On January 25, the Franco-Russian Council for Economic, Financial, Industrial and Trade Cooperation (CEFIC) held its first regular session in two years. The session was attended by French Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs Emmanuel Macron and Russian Minister for Economic Development and Trade Alexey Ulyukaev.
Emmanuel Quidet, President of the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI France Russie) told Valdaiclub.com about his impressions from the meeting.
In a telephone interview he said: “Both sides demonstrated a high level of pragmatism, making sure that whatever they discuss is important for the economic relationship between France and Russia.”
Asked if he was satisfied with the current level of Franco-Russian economic relations, Quidet said the biggest hurdle was the mutual economic sanctions introduced in 2014. Work on the lifting of sanctions is going on, he said, pointing out that this is tied up to the application of the Minsk-2 agreement.
“There has been a lot of progress, so as of today we see no reason why not lift these sanctions at some point,” Quidet said.
Earlier, French minister Macron was quoted as saying that both sides share the objective to create conditions for lifting sanctions by summer in case the Minsk agreements are observed.
Despite the sanctions, French investment has been growing, Quidet said. “This will improve our economic relationship, which is becoming stronger. France is the second largest investor in Russia after Germany,” he stressed.
According to him, “the French are very strong in Russia”, despite the sanctions war and the economic downturn. “The problem is not the economic crisis, but the sanctions and this is what we discussed with the ministers,” he said.
Quidet believes there is political will on both sides to end the sanctions war and improve the economic relations.
When asked which French industries fare best in Russia at a time of economic hardship, Quidet said that construction and automobile industries are in the best position. “Retail is a bit worse, but not that bad,” he said. “Luxury is doing very well as well as the pharmaceuticals.”
“It would be much better if the economic relations go back to the pre-crisis level and everybody understands that,” Quide concluded.
CEFIC is the main working structure of the Russo-French commission for bilateral cooperation at the prime ministers’ level. Its sessions have been held on an annual basis since 1992. In 2015, the annual session was not held for the first time, which raised concerns that the link between the two countries’ economic ministries would be broken. This year's meeting was widely perceived by both countries' business communities as a sign of thaw in relations.