French ambassdor discusses relationship with U.S.

By Gretchen Andersen

In a time of fiscal and economic uncertainty, France’s ambassador to the U.S. said in a… In a time of fiscal and economic uncertainty, France’s ambassador to the U.S. said in a Wednesday speech at Pitt, his country is counting on the United States.

“We believe in your country based on the fact that you reinvent yourselves, and I believe Pittsburgh is a very good example of this,” Ambassador François Delattre said.

Delattre delivered his remarks to 150 people at the University Club Wednesday morning as part of a breakfast briefing titled “New Opportunities for the Franco-American Partnership and for the Transatlantic Relationship.” His speech focused on U.S.-French relations, happenings in the Middle East and the European financial crisis.

The United States is the No. 1 foreign investor in France, Delattre said. “That shows Americans have good taste,” he joked, to laughter from the audience.

The backbone of the Franco-American “strategic and political partnership” is cross-investment, Delattre said, describing how subsidiaries of French companies locally employ Pittsburghers and how both countries employ millions of workers globally.

Delattre brought up the European financial crisis and his belief in the strength of the euro.

“All in all, [it] has been a great success story,” he said of the euro, explaining how the currency helped promote trade and investment in Europe and with the United States.

Josephine Olson, professor of business administration and director of the International Business Center in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, said she isn’t sure if she agrees with Delattre about the current status of the euro.

“It seemed to work for a number of years, but with the financial crisis, the problems of the euro have become more obvious,” Olson said in an email. “The countries do not coordinate their fiscal policies (taxes and spending), and the European Central Bank is not able to act as a ‘lender of last resort’ the way the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England does. Policies will have to be changed for the euro to continue in the long run.”

Delattre was named French ambassador in February 2011, after serving three years as ambassador of France to Canada. The ambassador — who said this was his first trip to Pittsburgh — was in town for a social engagement, organizers said. The breakfast was sponsored by Pitt and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that helps promote the understanding of international issues throughout Western Pennsylvania.

The ambassador spoke about how France and the United States share common interests and values, including their joint fights on many fronts, such as during World War II and most recently in Afghanistan and Libya.

“Our countries have stood side by side and shoulder-to-shoulder to promote the values of freedom and liberty,” Delattre said. “French relations have never been closer than they are today.”

Delattre outlined three of what he called France’s competitive assets: its growing population, booming entrepreneurship and recent downsize of its government. He also acknowledged that innovation is one of the top priorities in France.

“We found last year that there were more than 650,000 new businesses, and that is expected to increase. The younger generation, instead of knocking on the government’s door, rolls its sleeves up. And it’ll fail at first — because c’est la vie — but then it succeeds,” Delattre said.

But one of the key challenges of our generation, Delattre said, is how to “better integrate the Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and other rising powers [with our] shared values and interests.”

Later that afternoon, Delattre expanded on the French support for American intervention in Afghanistan and for the War on Terror.

“We have to succeed in Afghanistan, of course. Our common duty is never will al-Qaida rule and grow again in Afghanistan. A lot is at stake — a transition to democracy. We are on the same boat,” he said, affirming his support of U.S. efforts.

Delattre also brought up that both the United States and France are at the forefront of efforts to promote democracy movements in the Arab world. In regards to Iran, Delattre said both countries must prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.

“A nuclear Iran would be a totally unacceptable thing for every one of us,” Delattre said.

Olson described how the United States is affected by the European financial crisis, since the global financial system is highly integrated.

“U.S. investors hold European financial assets and Europeans hold American assets. Thus, when there is a crisis in one country, it affects investors in many other countries,” she said.

Olson said the financial crisis of the last couple years has affected most countries in the world, particularly the high-income countries such as the United States and France. She said the euro crisis is “adding to the problems” of the world.

In order to come out of the debt crisis, Delattre said Europe needs to tighten its belt, impose structural reforms to promote growth and establish a governance to better regulate policies.

During the breakfast, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said he hoped Delattre would return to Pittsburgh and presented the ambassador with a hand-forged plaque featuring the Cathedral of Learning.

“We hope there will be many return visits. This is the beginning of developing lasting friendships and partnerships,” Nordenberg said.