French Foreign Trade Minister Visits Houston

France's foreign trade minister has been making the rounds to encourage the opening of new markets for French exports. Houston Public Radio's Ed Mayberry tells us Christine Legarde is promoting business cooperation, despite occasional political disagreements.

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As France's foreign trade minister since 2005, Christine Legarde has targeted the United States as one of the top five markets where exceptional efforts are being deployed to achieve a stronger presence of French companies. She hears why American companies like doing business in France.

"Number one, it's a country that is ideally situated at the heart of Europe, 480 million inhabitants altogether, if you take the 27 member states of the European Union. Second reason that I've always been told is fantastic transportation system--transportation of goods, transportation of people, transportation of ideas and concepts."

Legarde points to the "open skies" agreement that will allow American airlines to better compete in Europe.

"Some of the nice little 'rights' that were put into place many, many years ago will have to be sort of nicely phased out, to the benefit of a true European-American, American-European open sky policy."

Legarde visited to witness first-hand the diversification of Houston's economy.

"Generally people are very optimistic and supportive of investing in France and doing business in France, but they clearly have a concern about employment law issues and relationship within the workforce and with the management. So that's the area of concern."

There are around 75 French companies operating in Houston and nearly 40 Houston firms operating with subsidiaries in France. Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.

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