Speech by President François Hollande at CEOs forum

Speech of H.E. Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic
at the CEOs Forum.


Allocution du président de la République au CEO... by elysee

Chandigarh, 24 January 2016

Hon’ble Prime Minister,
Hon’ble ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen representatives of companies,

It is an exceptional visit that I have undertaken here – though not the first in India – but there is something very special about it. Firstly, because I am the Chief Guest of Republic Day, i.e. the day of the adoption of the Indian Constitution, on 26th January 1950, because French troops will march along with the Indian army at the parade, and this, too, will be a first. And also because I have come to India after the Climate Agreement was signed in Paris, an agreement that owes much to Prime Minister Modi.

Through my personal visit here, I wished to express our deepest gratitude to him, because, had there been no powerful, well-argued speech from Prime Minister Modi on climate justice and what it would necessarily imply in the agreement, there would not have been the consensus that Laurent Fabius as the Chair of the Conference was able to gather.

But one must not be contented only with agreements, even if it is very important so that numerous others may be signed. One must also act so as to make these a reality.

Here, I would like to acknowledge the company heads because they have put a lot of effort into the prospects Prime Minister Modi and I opened during his visit to Paris in April 2015.

We wanted to come to a place that was exceptional in itself, and here we are in Chandigarh. It’s a symbolical city, a symbolical region because a great French architect was able to carry out architectural works, build a new city. He needed a receptive people to be able to make his utopias materialize; he also needed to be supported by leaders and officials, and they were here, in India. And it also needed a kind of daring to create such buildings. And it was also a message of peace as there was this Open Hand: open to give or open to receive. And I would like this significant architectural work to be recognized one day by UNESCO as an integral part of the world heritage of humanity.

And there was this exhibition at the museum – Prime Minister Modi attached great importance to it, and he was right to do so – which convinced us that the cradle of humanity was right here. It is very impressive to return to one’s cradle – generally, this is not the path we use, but here, we have come back to the very origin of the intelligent human being. And that confers a great responsibility on us. 2.5 million years ago, human beings lived here, who fought for their own lives so that we could finally be here today.

So, it is up to us, too, 2 million 5,00,000 years thereafter, to be capable of setting a very long-term target so that life may be respected, so that the Earth may be protected, so that humanity may be capable of giving what progress it still bears in itself; and so that we may combat all the forces that wish precisely to spread death.

This responsibility is also at the heart of my visit. My trip to India has two main goals. The first goal is to consolidate the strategic partnership between France and India. It was concluded in 1998, but it has since been ceaselessly consolidated. And today it is the most precious and most necessary of treaties. But we should not merely make a set of recommendations or even obligations of it, but a set of actions, particularly for our security.

France and India are two democracies, two very great democracies. I mentioned the values that we uphold, therefore we are the first targets of terrorists as they accept neither freedom, nor democracy, nor even more culture. Therefore, we need to cooperate even more on security and beyond military equipment, which we not only can promote and place at our Indian partner’s disposal – I refer to our Rafale aircraft, I refer to cybersecurity, I refer to equipment that could precisely lend support towards protecting our respective spaces – but which would also enable us to act when the world itself is under attack. Apart from what this could generate in terms of employment or economic activity, these exchanges, which concern our defence industry, there is a symbol in these equipment: it is that of linking our two countries, such that we may act together for the security of the world and have this form of mutual trust.

The second goal of my visit is the implementation of decisions that we took at the Paris Climate Conference. In December, we made commitments – all the countries made commitments with timelines: timeline of 2020, timeline of 2040. From the perspective of humanity, ultimately, these timelines are very close together. But if one considers the degree of pollution in our cities, the risk of catastrophes – it would appear that last year was the warmest of humanity – we should not waste time; we should work faster than what was planned. And France wants to build the post-carbon world with India by launching projects now. This was the sense of the discussions that we had with the Indian and French CEOs – and, here, I would like to acknowledge the two co-chairs of the Forum – because we can now use the presence of French companies in India – I would like to recall that there are 1,000 French companies that have made my country the third biggest investor here in India. Let’s therefore use this impressive network that has been able to build ties of support and confidence so that we may invest yet more in the coming years.

I have set a target, that of one billion dollars of additional investments per year in India from French companies. And we can make it happen even faster – 8 billion over the next few years, over the next three years. Several areas have been mentioned: first, Smart Cities, as India is undergoing rapid urbanization being a major emerging country. You are the most highly populated country in the world, so you will inevitably need to build new cities. You already have 9 metropolises with over 4 million inhabitants and considerable investments needs that you have yourself expressed in figures and I understood that this would be 680 billion for the next 20 years. Thus, as in Chandigarh, we should make new cities and if you so wish, we can build them together.

Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi, you have launched a major programme for building 100 smart cities over five years, in liaison with the local authorities. We are stakeholders of this plan and that is the significance of the agreements that have been signed with Nagpur and Puducherry. Over several months now, Chandigarh has been preparing, has consulted its people and has been selected to be part of this major mission. Well, France will be present along with the French Development Agency (AFD).

With regard to energy, we would also like to be the first – Indians and French – to be the first in innovation, the first in setting up, the first in development. Hence, we wish to participate fully with you towards attaining the goal you have fixed of reducing India’s carbon intensity and producing more – 40% – of your energy in the form of renewables. And here, too, solar energy will be the main field.

Many companies accompanying me today work in this sector; contracts have also been signed in this area and for us. These are transfers of technology, a sharing of technologies so that Indian and French companies may thereafter export this know-how and this capacity throughout the world.

Another area in which India’s needs are immense is transport: rail transport, maritime transport, read transport. I know that here, too, there have been major contracts for locomotive equipment, and also for building a factory that will manufacture them. And we would like to be able to have a new partnership for the renovation of railway stations between our best operator, SNCF, and INDIAN RAILWAYS.

But in maritime transport, too, there is much that France has to offer. France is the second greatest maritime space in the world. We are not the most highly populated country in the world, but we are one of the countries, perhaps, very soon to be the top maritime country in the world. This is a considerable capital, a major responsibility and we have the best companies in this field.

There are other transport sectors, too, as space, and we transport information and technology to the skies. I didn’t want to speak at length because our areas of cooperation are, finally, numerous, and do not stop at the implementation of the COP21, though come to think of it, everything is in the COP21; the COP21 is a programme in itself. But we have much to do in the sectors of health, agrofoods, and for partnerships, too, for civil nuclear energy.

I would like to conclude my address. We are at a juncture when the global economy is once again questioning itself. And what yesterday was a happy trend for the global economy has become an additional risk – I am referring to oil prices. We must stabilize the markets because companies need to have stable prices for their investments. We know that oil prices today are abnormally low, but we also know that there is an imbalance between demand and supply. Therefore, we must so act as to give a price target: price of energy, price of carbon so that investments may be carried out fruitfully.

We have noticed a slowdown in a number of major economies, such as China, but what are we really talking about? Of an economy that was at a 9% growth rate and will now perhaps be at no more than 6%. And if the Chinese economy is experiencing a downturn, it is probably linked to the present economic climate, and if it is structural, it will spawn other benefits, i.e. greater domestic consumption. And there is India, which is seeing very high growth thanks to the reforms undertaken. And therefore, my message is very simple: France has confidence in the Indian economy, France thinks that it is here that a number of new policies are being formulated, it is here that new innovations are being conceived, with a youthful population that is increasingly better educated. They can contribute to prosperity in India as well as to growth in Europe and France if we are able to work together, if we are able to exchange talents and skills, as the CEOs here have, in fact, wished.

Thus, my journey, my visit – the second and exceptional – confirms the historic relationship we share between our two countries. We uphold the same values, the same principles and we have the same hopes, progress, the spread of wealth, poverty alleviation. And it is by being innovative that we will win these victories and because I believe in India’s ability to carry its innovations that I have confidence in this relationship – once again – that we have established with Prime Minister Modi.

Thus, he expresses the same impatience as I do to my government: we must go faster, much faster and even then it’s too slow.

Thank you.

Last modified on 29/01/2016

top of the page