Sweden and France: “It is now time to deepen our ties”
On December 6th, the Swedish-Chamber of Commerce in France, Business Sweden, and the Swedish Embassy in France organized the French-Swedish Business Forum in Paris on the decarbonization of the economy, in the presence of HRH Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden. The occasion for the French Minister of the economy, finance, and the recovery, Bruno Le Maire, to address the Swedish business community with a message about what France shares with Sweden and its willingness to deepen our economic cooperation within the EU, to face the global challenges of our time.
Here are the key messages from his speech and the replay of the forum.
Shared history and values between France and Sweden
“For centuries, we have had family and political ties, we have had military and diplomatic ties, and of course, we have had business and economic ties. Our history has been interlinked for centuries (…) and will be interlinked for many centuries to come (…). And my first message will be to you, dear entrepreneurs, and it is simple: thank you. Thank you for your exceptional resilience during the crisis. I know how difficult those times have been for you. Thank you for helping our economies to recover (…). It is something striking. We have an economy which is now stronger than before, thanks to you and your leadership.”
“Europe is the beginning, Europe is a force, to face the difficulties (…) of health crisis”. Indeed, the 27 member states all came to terms with the European recovery plan proposed by the European Commission in 2020. This plan allowed member states to face the crisis with all the means at their disposal. “In the space of a few days, we invested billions in protecting our companies and the skills that make our economies strong and resilient. The so-called “whatever-it-cost” announced by President Macron was the right decision at the right time. It protected our companies, our skills, our employees, helping us recover quickly. During this crisis, we kept very close coordination between the ECB, the Commission, and member states. We also implemented new disruptive instruments, most commonly issuing common debt through Next Generation EU. NextGenerationEU is a breakthrough in European history and a very efficient one. So, let’s be proud of what we have collectively achieved. We are nearing a 5% growth in the Eurozone for 2021.”
“My deep belief is that you can never build close cooperation when there is not a very close cultural friendship between two countries. It is the case between France and Sweden. It has been the case for many centuries. So, I would propose to build the 21st century together, between Sweden and France, between the Swedish people and the French people, between the Swedish companies and the French companies”, concluded Bruno Le Maire on this aspect, underlining the shared cultural ties between France and Sweden.
Shared goals, within the EU, to face the global challenges of a changing world
“Now is the time to deepen our ties, to grow an even stronger European continent. France and Sweden are both at the forefront of such an ambition. I am very proud to see that France and Sweden share a partnership on green innovation signed in 2017 and renewed in 2019. We are both already among the greenest economies in Europe, thanks to our decarbonized electricity production. We support the implementation of the carbon border adjustment mechanism. We both rely on nuclear power. On taxonomy, you all know France’s position, including nuclear energy is a necessity, and a clear line for the French government (…) We should never oppose the two ways of producing energy because they are not creating any CO². We need to rely both on nuclear and renewable energies”, he claimed, emphasizing the importance of the cooperation between actors such as Vattenfall and EDF to develop competitive carbon-neutral energy.
“I am also glad to see that France, Sweden, and our European partners are strengthening industrial cooperation. We must carry on building IPCEI in our most strategic value chains. Hydrogen, semiconductors, batteries, electronics, cloud, on all those topics, we need to gather our efforts, gather our financial means, and get access to the best technologies in the world. I am deeply convinced that it is time to invest to remain in the technological race for the 21st century. Between China and America, there is a place for Europe. There is no political sovereignty without technological sovereignty. If we want to build a sovereign Europe, we need to invest more in technologies”, insisting on the technological challenges against China and the United States.
“These new technologies are excellent but costly. Biotechnologies are costly. Nuclear power is costly. If we want to fund the technologies, we need to accelerate in the building of capital market union. This summit proves that within the EU, France and Sweden have special relationships”, stressed Bruno Le Maire on the necessity to develop the banking and capital market of the European Union.
Shared economic and business ties that need to be deepened
“Despite the COVID crisis, bilateral trade of goods and services reached €16bn in 2020. France and Sweden trade high value-added goods in electronic and computer equipment, transport equipment, and chemical and pharmaceutical products. (…) Swedish companies employ 95,000 people in France. And France is the largest foreign employer in the service sector in Sweden: 70 000 Swedes work for French companies. I am happy about are our joint investment projects in research, innovation, and digital transformation (…). France is the third main destination for R&D investment by Swedish firms after the US and China.”
“I appreciate Volvo and Scania’s combined efforts to develop projects in the electromobility sector in both Sweden and France. Both EDF and Vattenfall are looking into new SMR designs for our nuclear industries. Our potential common work on healthcare is also massive. Recipharm and Valneva have respectively invested in France and Sweden to develop a vaccine”, he summarized to expose the dynamism of trade and investment between our countries that we need to deepen to face the competition against China and the United States.
“We need to build new cooperation (…). I propose building this new cooperation in the technological field with Sweden and reinforcing our ties between the two countries. As the French Minister of Finance, I am very much in favor of sound public finances. But I do not see any opposition between coming back to those sound public finances reducing the level of public debt (…) and investing more in those new fields and those new supply chains.”
Read more: The French green hydrogen plan 2020-2030
Shared vision and efforts to create a business-friendly environment and foster innovation
“France has been for past two years the most attractive European country for foreign investment, especially in the industrial investments (…), France has radically changed. We have adopted, with President Macron, a new economic policy, a new financial policy which allowed us to be the most attractive country for foreign investments in Europe. We have decided to reduce corporate taxation down to 25% by 2022 (…). We have adopted the most competitive R&D tax system in Europe. We have brought more flexibility to the labor market with reforms on apprenticeship and training. We have put in place new taxation, which is a low one on all investments. So, this means that if you want to come to France, you are most welcome, and you will have the most attractive framework that you can imagine in Europe.”
“The second rule is stability. We have created the new taxation framework; we will stick to this policy and stick to this taxation framework (…) We are firmly attached to the decision we took with President Macron in 2017. We will never change our policy which is in favor of entrepreneurship and the private companies (…)”, concluded Bruno Le Maire, stating that this policy will last as long as the government is in charge.
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Image credits: Chambre de Commerce Suédoise en France