Four years ago, The Economist newspaper analysed the wavering ambivalence of Franco-British relations in the run-up to France’s impending Presidential election.
Where do we stand four years on? The tables have turned and it is now the UK which is on the brink of an important election. Some would even go as far as to say that the UK is also on the brink of an exit from the European Union. However, rather than dwelling on the possible outcomes and implications of these major political events, our new bog post will assess the increasingly robust economic ties between Great Britain and its longstanding ally.
According to the French Customs Office, the United Kingdom was France’s premier trade surplus for goods in 2013, rising to 8.7 billion euros. It also represented France’s fourth biggest export market after its mainland neighbours Germany, Belgium and Italy. Sales to the UK rose to 29.4 billion euros and our friends at the Chambre de Commerce Française de Grande-Bretagne consider France’s three prime exports to the UK as industrial goods, transport infrastructure and foodstuffs. As far as imports from the UK are concerned, France’s main interest lies in industrial products and hardware. European investors remain the largest holders of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock in the UK (58%), while the USA is the largest single source country (29%). The two largest European contributors to FDI in the UK were France and Germany, both delivering over 100 investment projects, representing rises of 18 percent and 31 percent respectively. French-driven projects vary from energy and gas to cargo and construction.
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(Source: UKTI, 2014)
In the ever-evolving energy sector – a key theme in light of this year’s climate change conference in Pairs – EDF’s sponsorship of a Franco-British partnership to aid new SMEs has been highly praised by industry chiefs and represents significant French investment in the UK. The collaboration between the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association SME Partnership and the French Partenariat, France Monde Électricité (PFME), will help UK businesses garner the support and experience they need to bid for, and win nuclear contracts. The PFME was created with the backing of EDF in France to help SMEs join the nuclear supply chain. It gives these businesses access to nuclear developers and allows them to share experience and information so that they can successfully compete for nuclear contracts and increase competition.
EDF Energy, which is a subsidiary of EDF SA of France, also announced two other new programmes last year. First, it agreed to expand its partnership with Imperial College London and its association with the National Nuclear Laboratory to include research, education and training for nuclear energy. Second, EDF Energy will begin to support the development of a South West Nuclear Research Hub in partnership with The University of Bristol. Also announced was AREVA’s £100,000 (121,000 E) investment in the UK’s National Skills Academy for Nuclear Supply Chain Apprentices. The funding has created 20 additional apprenticeships in the UK nuclear manufacturing supply chain and has provided additional professional training to existing apprentices.
Here at the Chamber, we are fully supportive of cross-channel investment and it will be our job this year to continue to promote similar exchanges in order to further enhance Franco-British economic ties in a variety of different sectors and fields. We look forward to seeing the evolution of EDF’s projects and the other ways in which Franco-British ties continue to progress.