– Recently on July 3, 2018 you became the President of the French Business Movement MEDEF. MEDEF is the leading network of entrepreneurs in France including the international level. The organization promotes trade, technological cooperation, investing, creates long-term partner relations especially on the developing markets, sets direct contacts with state leaders and private sector of many countries. Could you dwell upon the mission and the goals of MEDEF?
– The leading role of the Western economies including the French one is facing a challenge. The French companies and enterprises have to work in the situation of large-scale geopolitical, ecological, technological and social changes. They have to structure new economic models in the conditions of international competition, to pursue production in France with reduced resources and energy breakthrough.
French enterprises also have to quickly introduce digital technologies, which have become part of every-day life for their clients, suppliers, partners and employees.
In addition to the above mentioned French companies have to take into account the changes in the society including high unemployment among young people, numerous migration flows as well as the high mobility of goods and capital.
It is important that business has the answers to all the challenges that our society is facing. With the current social, economic and ecological situation businessmen find the most innovative solutions. And we all have to take our stand in order to play the main role in the context of the circumstances.
MEDEF is an integral player of the process. Our slogan is “Act together for sustainable development”. This slogan also supports the general mission of MEDEF defined in the valid charters. Being written 20 years ago they couldn’t take into account today’s Europe, the sustainable development, or the corporate social responsibility (CSR). In achieving these goals the updated MEDEF works to be an example and take the responsibility for observance of public interests in Europe – reaching all the corners of France for better understanding of economic realities and representing all enterprises, tackling all issue referring to the society.
– How do you structure your work in France and beyond?
– MEDEF as a voice of all French companies is the main partner of the authorities: we advocate the interests of businesses in all economic and social agencies – on the local, regional and national levels, convey to the authorities the opinions of the entrepreneurs to improve the conditions of their work.
MEDEF is also represented in Brussels and beyond France.
The House of French enterprises in Brussels represents MEDEF and its members in Eurocommission and Europarliament. MEDEF is also the member of Business Europe which includes all 40 European management trade unions. At the European level we work on better integration and the development of common market of the EU.
Besides the branch MEDEF International assists the French companies in promoting their position internationally in particular in the developing countries. Every year we arrange about 200 meetings and delegations with the highest authorities and private sector, we have 85 geographical councils embracing 150 countries.
– Proceeding with the international activity of MEDEF, what is the cornerstone of the cooperation and joint projects of the French companies and companies from other countries?
– Firstly, MEDEF unlike the British, German or Italian corresponding institutes is the only organization representing all sectors of economy at once – industry, banking sector, insurance, services and so on. We always take this into account in our work.
Secondly, we closely cooperate with our European and global partners in different formats – from the work in inter-European (Business Europe) and international (Global Business Coalition, Business at OECD, ICC) organizations to the cooperation with informal groups (B7, B20) and within bilateral agreements with similar organizations of other countries – Germany, Italy, Israel, Mexico… This joint activity allows to share our solutions, to connect the French companies with foreign partners and to develop common positions in accordance with current events in the economy and trade.
It’s not always easy. We have to be open, flexible, diplomatic, especially when our points of view and interests differ. On the whole the negotiations with our partners from other countries are very much similar to those with foreign authorities and the representatives of economic and social spheres.
– France and Russia cooperate quite closely. For example your country actively participates in job creation in Russia. What is MEDEF’s work in Russia like in general? What are the difficulties and how hard is it to overcome them?
– French companies are widely represented in Russia: total investment amount equals to 20 billion Euros and our companies rank first among the foreign employers in Russia – it’s about 140 000 employees. Our trade turnover has recommenced its growth after 2017– 2018 and is now reaching the pre-crisis level – it evidences that our relations have become stable regardless of sanctions.
MEDEF through MEDEF International actively works with Russia – a strategic partner of France and Europe. 30 years of joint activity have created close ties, mutual trust providing for long-term plans.
We organize regular meetings between the leaders of the French companies and the major Russian representatives of public and private sectors. There are discussions of actual industries such as transport, energy, telecommunication, urban development, industry. Business issues and business climate are also on the agenda. We deal with these issues directly with our Russian partners on-site – RSPP representatives and the Minister of economic development of the Russian Federation Maxim Oreshkin.
We also tackle the problem of bilateral relations very often, particularly at the sessions of the CEFIC (Franco-Russian Economic, Financial, Industrial and Trade Council). It concerns the regulations at the level of the Russian Federation and the Eurasian Economic Union.
These meetings are always positive because we always find partners among our Russian friends ready to listen and smoothen things down for the French enterprises in Russia, as much as possible. However leaving out “internal” difficulties in every-day work the sanctions considerable hinder business in particular due to the exterritorial American sanctions. We often encourage the French and Russian authorities to take measures for retaining the sovereignty of our economy facing the unilateral decisions without consent of partners.
– Could you tell us about what is in the MEDEF priority area when it’s about working in the Eurasian space particularly in Russia or in Azerbaijan where you will go soon? Which industries are you most interested in? What are the most important projects and areas within your cooperation with these countries that you could mention?
– For MEDEF Eurasia is a vast region stretching from Central Europe to Mongolia. Of course, this part of the world includes the most diverse economies where the markets of such large industrial countries as Turkey and Russia are represented and developed as well as markets that are closely linked to the EU – for example, the market of Uzbekistan.
In addition, the Eurasian countries are the heterogeneity of the political system and business conditions.
And in order to engage in conditions of these diversity, MEDEF International divides Eurasia into macro-regions, including countries that are most similar in characteristics.
Our priority is the countries of Eurasia seeking to diversify their economy and reduce dependence on the export of commodities. We are talking here about countries such as Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Azerbaijan where I will go in July 2019 with a large delegation, representing French business both large and medium and small. Food industry, digital technologies, tourism, logistic routes, ecology these are the main topics that we will discuss in Baku with the authorities of Azerbaijan.
Other countries of Eurasia express a need to modernize their industrial sector, to explore the field of alternative energy sources due to future environmental problems, to structure new sectors of the economy and protect their digital sovereignty. We offer our knowledge in these areas and always try to highlight and emphasize the uniqueness of the French solutions.
Russia pays a lot of attention to the industry of the future - we could discuss this topic in June, at the next economic forum in St. Petersburg. In addition, the industry of the future is closely linked to climate change since the modernization of Russian heavy industry, the source of environmental pollution, is a big challenge not only for Russia but for the entire planet. New solutions for the industry of the future could increase the efficiency, competitiveness and help save recourses and energy. Moreover they will contribute to the transformation of the Russian economy and its workforce.
We also follow closely the needs of Russian cities and the development of the food sector, the latter gained rapid local development after the Russian embargo on products from the EU, the USA and Canada in August 2014.
Last thing that I would note the transport infrastructure which is, of course, important in a country, whose area is almost 27 times larger than the area of France! Railways and highways, river and air routes require development and integration in order to make logistics more efficient.
Russia is a huge country which is a strategic partner for Europe and for our companies and the current situation cannot change this.
– How do you assess the current state of business and the economy of Europe in general and of France in particular? And what are the most relevant tasks now, in difficult conditions for the whole world, facing entrepreneurs?
– The state of the global economy is marked by the strengthening of positions of those countries where the protectionism is practiced, in particular in the USA and China. I deeply believe in the role of free trade on a global scale because it bears growth and development. But nevertheless free trade should be balanced - countries should not introduce such rules that in fact protect only their own market.
Within the framework of MEDEF I created a committee of economic sovereignty with a view to moving the harmonization of rules in the EU and France as opposed to tools that the USA uses (exterritoriality of American law) and China (theft of technology and inaccessibility of government orders).
In France, after the first successful measures of President Emmanuel Macron, such as the enterprise taxation and labor legislation reform, we are witnessing popular protests that reflect the extremely uneven development between our regions which may later become an obstacle to growth. The role of MEDEF today is to be able to respond to these challenges through the proposals that we formulated in the process “Great National Debates” (fr. Grand Débat National) which have been conducted in France since January 2019: increasing the mobility of workers and their purchasing power through the issuance of bonuses, non-taxable, assistance to young people by concrete measures (creation of start-up capital, assiatance in obtaining a driver’s license).
– When you were an assistance of Vice-president and Treasurer of MEDEF, you founded Digital University. Could you tell us what the point of its activity is?
– Since I am strongly convinced that digital transformation is a major upheaval for all entrepreneurs regardless of their size and field of activity, MEDEF allocates a separate time to this process every year.
The activity of the Digital University covers all French enterprises and is aimed to raise awareness and support of French companies, in particular small and medium enterprises which have not yet taken advantages of all digital opportunities that this kind of revolution gives us.
The Digital University allows to see how French enterprises follow this trend in each individual industry and also show and evaluate both the already known and potential advantages of our country in this field.
After four successful graduates, Digital University of MEDEF continues to develop thanks in particular to cooperation with France Digitale. We offer a pitching format to stimulate innovative development between small and medium businesses and start-ups. Our goal is to find and identify those who will be the main engines of digital technology and who could work with to accelerate the digital transformation.
About the authorGeoffroy Roux de Bézieux Graduate of ESSEC and a DESS at the Université Paris-Dauphine Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux has more than 22-year experience as an entrepreneur. In 1996 he founded The Phone House – the first chain of shops entirely dedicated to mobile phones. In 2004 he pursued his career by founding Omea Telecom which started the first alternative mobile operator (MVNO) Breizh Mobile. Ten years later, in 2014 Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux founded Notus Technologies, a group active in the agri-food industry, leisure and new technologies. He is a Vice-President of the Peugeot SA industrial group supervisory board and a Parrot board member. He has also spent time as a board member at IMS, Seloger.com, Micromania, Budget Telecom, and Nocibé. Since 2000 Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux has been an Angel investor for many start-ups contributing to the rise of French Tech. In 2009 he created ISAI with Pierre Kosciuzko-Morizet, Ouriel Ohayon and Stéphane Treppoz, an investment fund for Internet entrepreneurs. Between 2003 and 2008 he was vice-president then president of CroissancePlus, the association for growth of entrepreneurs. He has also been a member of the France Investment Council and participated in the Attali Commissions. He has also been VicePresident of the Fédération Française des Télécoms. In 2008-2012 he was a Vice-President and then a President in Unedic for MEDEF and vice-president of an Employment Center. Since July 2013 he has been an assistant Vice-President and a treasurer of MEDEF. Holding this post he has founded the Digital University. Together with his wife he founded a charity ARAOK Foundation supporting humanitarian associations. He is a Knight of the Légion d’Honneur and Officer of the Ordre national du Mérite Author of the works: «Salauds de Patrons! Pourquoi les Francais n’aiment plus leurs chefs d’entreprise?» (Hachette, 2007), «Pour sortir de la crise, le capitalisme» (Editions du Moment, 2011).