Riyadh, Paris set to improve ties — French envoy
RIYADH: New French Ambassador François Gouyette said here that the Kingdom and France have a lot of opportunities to work together to achieve Saudi 2030 Vision and National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020.
Gouyette, who succeeded former Ambassador Bertrand Besancenot, was speaking last week at a welcome reception hosted by the Council of Saudi Chambers here.
The proceedings of the reception were chaired by President of the Saudi- French Business Council Dr. Mohammed Ali Bin Laden, who delivered the welcome address at the reception.
Appreciating the honor accorded to him by the CSC, Ambassador Gouyette thanked the members of the business community in the capital for the recognition given to him through the event.
The envoy pointed out that there are unprecedented opportunities between the two countries that could be harnessed for mutual interests under the new programs of the Kingdom.
He pointed out that France is the third largest foreign investor in the Kingdom with investments of up to $15 billion, which was considered a sign of great importance in the Saudi market.
During the reception, businessmen from the two countries also held a meeting of the SaudiFrench Business Council to dis- cuss the agenda of the council during the coming period, especially regarding the visits planned to take Saudi businessmen to France.
The meeting decided to take topics such as privatization, housing, training, education, tourism, water resources, and the banking sector’s funding for small- and mediumsized companies during the next council’s meeting.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Saudi-French Business Council held a luncheon in honor of the French ambassador and his entourage at the headquarters of the Council of Saudi Chambers.
There are 80 French companies operating in the Kingdom with 30,000 employees, 30 percent of whom are Saudis, which is the highest level of Saudization of a work force among foreign companies operating in the Kingdom.
Besides regular businesses, the companies also conduct training for Saudis, and help in the transfer of technology.
On tourism, France ranks as the second largest destination for tourists with a total number of visitors to that country annually exceeding 220,000.
France is also the third largest investor in the Kingdom, and it has strong strategic ties, especially in the fields of defense, the economy, politics and culture.
The two countries have agreed to cooperate more in imparting training to Saudi youths, and explore areas for Saudi-French joint teams to engage in archaeological excavations.
Earlier this year, a joint team of Saudi-French archaeologists, carrying out excavations on historical sites in Al-Kharj, discovered heritage artifacts belonging to the Stone and Bronze ages, and the Abbasid era, a major breakthrough for the promotion of heritage tourism in the Riyadh region.
French Ambassador François Gouyette, third left, with President of the Saudi-French Business Council Dr. Mohammed Ali Bin Laden, second left, and other officials at the reception in Riyadh.