Back in August 2012, three months after François Hollande was elected the President of France, and considering the difficulties of the French economy, his foreign minister Laurent Fabius introduced economic diplomacy – one “pet craze” of his – as a top priority for France’s economic recovery and for the French ministry of foreign affairs – the “Quai d’Orsay”. As a result, Fabius and his team crafted an unprecedented policy of “economic reflex” focused on restoring the external trade balance as an important part of France’s credibility abroad.
Strong with exceptional political longevity and a deep knowledge of France’s power networks, Fabius created the Quai’s Business and Global Economy Directorate on March 1, 2013. The path towards a positive trade balance remains afar, long and tough, however Fabius’ efforts brought some positive results since France’s global trade deficit decreased almost 23 percent from minus 66.7 billion euros in 2012 to minus 51.4 billion euros in 2014.
Figures do mean something. Nevertheless any assessment of the results of Fabius’ economic diplomacy will be most relevant several years from now when the economic reflex becomes fully natural within the existing ranks of French diplomats and the Quai’s future and likely more economy-savvy recruits. As of today, when analyzing open, media and business sources, the perception of France as a trade power seems to be changing progressively and positively.
Seen as a most-advanced economy with exceptional savoir-faire in a number of sectors – tourism, food, telecoms, biotech, space, armament – France is actually dusting herself off, discreetly preparing for the new paradigm of the 21st century’s world economy. Fabius and the Quai are playing an active role in this (r)evolution.