French ambassador completes diplomatic term, bids farewell to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Ludovic Pouille, appointed French ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 2020, is at the end of his diplomatic mission in the country.

Arab News en Francais caught up with the ambassador for an interview in which he discussed the main aspects of the bilateral relations between the Kingdom and France.

Pouille told Arab News: “During my four years in office, I have had the opportunity to witness Saudi Arabia’s commitment to an extensive and ambitious program of reform and modernization in all sectors – economic, social and cultural – led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. .”

He added that over the past two years, bilateral relations have been marked by various ministerial and parliamentary visits, which illustrates the importance attached to the Kingdom by the French authorities, including the visit of President Emmanuel Macron in December 2021. The visit of the Crown Prince to France in July 2022 and June 2023 also marked “a very important moment in the history of our relations”, Pouille said.

Business relations between France and Saudi Arabia are flourishing in all sectors, especially in the key sectors of Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation plan.

The French ambassador said: “In 2023, trade in goods between France and Saudi Arabia will reach €9.5 billion ($10.2 billion), an increase of 18 percent compared to 2016, when Vision 2030 was launched. French exports to Saudi Arabia continued to grow from 2019 thanks to various industries and will reach EUR 4.2 billion in 2023.

“The dynamism of our aviation sector and the recognition of French expertise have made it possible to double our exports in this sector in 2023 compared to 2021. I am also pleased with the recent contract signed between the Saudia Group and Airbus on May 20. “

France is involved in many mega-projects thanks to its companies, which play a major role in achieving the economic goals of both countries. “I am convinced that our common future will be bright, especially thanks to the development of artificial intelligence, in which France is a major player and promises a successful digital transition in many sectors,” he added.

Investment is a key area and the volume of French direct investment in Saudi Arabia is estimated at almost US$5 billion, mainly concentrated in the energy and industrial sectors.

Large French groups are particularly well positioned in renewable energy, including EDF, Engie, TotalEnergies, and the water sector, including Saur, Suez, Veolia – these areas are targeted by highly ambitious national programs implemented in the form of private investment.

Recently, French companies and investors have shown particular interest in the healthcare, digital and high-value-added technology sectors, particularly through France’s Tech brand and its 22,000 startups, Pouille said.

He added that France has established economic partnerships and cooperation in all areas, including energy, water and environment, transport and logistics, tourism, leisure and culture, sports, health, agri-food, new technologies, aviation and space, as well as financial services and investments.

“France, the world’s leading tourist destination, is proud to offer its expertise to the Kingdom, which has great ambitions in this area,” Pouille said. “Whether it’s about building infrastructure, educating the youth, or organizing major sports or cultural events.

“France excels in all these sectors, which are at the heart of the Saudi Vision 2030. The AlUla laboratories, which have been the subject of an exceptional collaboration between our two countries since 2018, are exemplary in this respect.”

The ambassador also noted that the results of Saudi-French cultural cooperation are “more than positive; have been enriched by our respective know-how and our joint initiatives in various fields such as fashion, architecture, art and education.

“The news that I’m most happy about, of course, is the award to Saudi Arabia for hosting the World Expo 2030. This is a huge success, to which France has contributed by supporting the bid in the summer of 2022,” he added.

The ambassador said that many events were held during his diplomatic mandate, including the Riyadh Season, the first Riyadh Biennale of Contemporary Art, the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, the DesertX exhibition in AlUla, the Noor Riyadh Festival and the MDLBeast Sandstorm Festival.

“Just a few days ago, I had the immense honor of awarding the Medal of Arts and Literature to several Saudi personalities who have contributed to the development of culture in Saudi Arabia, including Her Highness Princess Adwa bint Yazid bint Abdullah Al-Saud. , Ahmed Mater, Mohannad Shono and Noura Bin Saidan.”

Regarding his stay in the Kingdom, the ambassador added: “I want to thank the Saudis! I express my deep gratitude for the warm welcome given to my family and me during my four years in Riyadh. I will have unforgettable memories of this country and its ambitious and talented men and women.

“I would also like to thank my 7,000 countrymen for their help and guidance in my mission to serve our country and bilateral relations with the Kingdom,” he said. “I would like to tell them to continue their work and continue to sow the seeds of our cooperation because at the end of the day they are the true ambassadors of our country in Saudi Arabia.

“Finally, when I return to France, I will encourage my compatriots not to hesitate for a second to come to Saudi Arabia to visit, work or study.”

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