Economic diplomacy priority No. 1 for France

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 11, 2013 - 20:22
  • Updated : Feb 12, 2013 - 17:11
New French Ambassador to Korea Jerome Pasquier said his No. 1 priority as his country’s top diplomat in Korea was “economic diplomacy,” and that he wanted to start his posting here by listening to suggestions from the French business community and its Korean partners.

Pasquier said he would like to hear from the French community in Korea as well ― but especially suggestions and opinions from entrepreneurs on how to make doing business in Korea easier for French companies.

He said he would make economic diplomacy a major priority of his posting as France’s chief diplomatic representative here.
French Ambassador to Korea Jerome Pasquier (Yonhap News)

“What I am instructed to do by the French government and by (President Francois) Hollande is to make economic diplomacy the priority, and this is even more important in a country like Korea,” Pasquier said during a speech addressing the French business community at a lunch meeting of the French Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the French-owned and operated Novotel Ambassador Hotel in southern Seoul, Wednesday.

Pasquier arrived in Korea a couple of months ago, but presented his Letter of Credence to President Lee Myung-bak at Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday, along with three other new foreign envoys ― Greek Ambassador Dionisios Sourvanos; Peruvian Ambassador Jaime Pomaredo; and Tunisian Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nafti.

“(Economic diplomacy) means helping you, involving you, working with you, encouraging investment both ways, Korean investment in France and French investment here,” he said.

Pasquier’s speech to the French business community in Korea was his first official public speech here. His emphasis on economic diplomacy falls in line with Hollande’s strategy outlined at the 20th Ambassadors Conference at the Palais de l’Elysee in Paris in August and Quai d’Orsay’s action plan by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Hollande said diplomacy focused on economics would be crucial to a recovery in France and to create jobs. France faced historically high deficits year on year in 2011 and 2012 at 7 billion and 5.5 billion euros, respectively.

France faced a trade deficit with Korea in both those years as well, as successive waves of Kia and Hyundai cars flooded the country. Exports of Kias to France increased over 40 percent in 2012, according to European Commission trade stats.

Pasquier took note of Korea’s economic prowess in the two decades since he last worked here.

Pasquier’s appointment as ambassador to Korea marks his second posting as a diplomat in Korea. He served as cultural counselor at the French Embassy from 1988-1992.

“One thing that has certainly changed is the importance of the French community here. It is much larger today,” he said. The FKCCI has about 200 members, including all of the major French companies doing business in Korea.

Pasquier said he would work in a business-oriented manner to resolve issues to help French companies do their work in Korea. He said his first order of business was resolving visa problems, which had been widely criticized by entrepreneurs in the French business community.

“We want more Koreans visiting France, more business people, more tourists and students,” Pasquier said.

Although he presented his credentials to Lee on Wednesday, he met President-elect Park Geun-hye Jan. 14.

Park Geun-hye briefly studied at the University of Grenoble in France in the 1970s, but had to return to Korea after her mother was killed in a botched assassination attempt on her father, strongman Park Chung-hee, who ruled over Korea for 18 years.

Pasquier said she told him during their meeting that she retained a special interest in France and the meeting was an encouraging early sign that French-Korean relations would continue to be strong.

A number of high-level state visits to Korea are also in line this year.

Minister of Education and Research Genevieve Fioraso is slated to attend the presidential inauguration ceremony, Feb. 25. In late March, Korean-born French politician Fleur Pellerin, junior minister for small and medium enterprises, innovation and the digital economy at the Ministry of Productive Renewal, is due to visit Korea to meet ministers handling information and technology issues.

Pellerin was adopted by a French family in 1973, six months after her birth. She served as an adviser on the campaign team of French President Francois Hollande, who appointed her to her Cabinet post last year.

Pasquier said he wanted to remake the France in the popular imagination of the Korean public, too, beyond the traditional notion of France as place for just good wine, art and culture.

“France has a good image in Korea,” he said. “But I think we have to expand this image. I am not sure in Korea it is well known that in the last 10 years we have been awarded two Nobel Prizes in Physics, two in medicine and one in chemistry.”

By Philip Iglauer (