The 2013/07/31 at 08:26
1 – Attractive Israeli hi-tech economy
It can be called a general tendency, maybe even a strong trend: the Israeli economy interests French enterprises and vice versa. “The number and quality of participants at our yearly Gala clearly demonstrate the desire and motivation for French businesses to work much more with Israel,” explains Henri Cukierman, President of the France-Israel Chamber of Commerce (CCFI), who points out the first-time presence of Alstom and Dior. Not forgetting Essilor and EDF, both extremely active in Israel this year. But also Publicis, which has recently acquired an Israeli network of ad agencies, and also Zoom Advertising, based in Ramallah, in Palestine. The President of the bi-national Chamber also notes the very promising number of VSIs-SMIs.
For Israel, the “start-up nation”, is undeniably attractive, with an economy still marked by strong growth that stands out for the key role played by innovation and high technologies. Civilian R&D represents 5 % of the Israeli GDP compared with 2 % in Europe; this is where the highest density of start-ups per inhabitant in the world can be found. In this way, Israel can be viewed as a model for its capacity to innovate.
2 – Trade exchanges to boost
However, trade exchanges between the two countries are not as strong as the close and peaceful Franco-Israeli relationship might well foster. This is a point that saddens President Cukierman: “In terms of economic exchanges, countries like Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium are behind us in world trade, but ahead of us in Israel and we have noted a decline this year.”
Hence the roadmap for the CCFI, which sets out convince French enterprises of the interests of the Israeli market. In particular in key sectors, such as energy. Israel is becoming an important producer of gas, which is of interest to French industrialists in the energy field. Other key sectors include luxury and high-end tourism, for the Israeli standard of living is swiftly rising.
The same goes for transport and retailing. “It’s necessary to climb the slope and to bring our country to the economic rank that is its due in Israel,” sums up the President of the bi-national Chamber, who reminds that the Israeli market is “all the more interesting for French enterprises as 20 % of Israelis are French-speaking in origin, which facilitates communication between our two countries”.
3 – Working on image
If the CCFI is striving to develop economic relations between France and Israel, its objectives are also to improve the image of France in Israel and that of Israel in France.
The CCFI and its regional delegations in Toulouse, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Strasbourg regularly take groups of entrepreneurs to Israel. “Sometimes, there is a physical fear of going to Israel even though Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are no more dangerous than New York, London, Madrid or Paris,” explains Cukierman. “Often, the entrepreneurs we accompany for the first time are struck by the fact that the country’s reality does not correspond with their initial apprehensions. And they are also struck by the strong spirit of enterprise and innovation of young Israelis who are energetic and ambitious.”
But in terms of image, the other option consists in taking legal action. Legal action targeting, in particular, the BDS (Boycott Désinvestissement Sanctions or Boycott Disinvestment Sanctions) campaign, launched in 2005 by the Palestinian company and taken up in France. Today, following legal proceedings taken by the France-Israel Chamber of Commerce, the Court of Appeal recently confirmed a sentencing of calls to boycott Israeli products by members of the BDS.
In terms of prospects, the CCFI wishes to develop the activities that it carries out in collaboration with major institutions. An example of such activity is taking place in the consulting field, between the Israeli university Technion and the French school ESCP EAP. The trend is also visible in events organised in collaboration with associations such as X Israel, the association of former students of the Ecole Polytechnique engineering school. Finally, the collaborative dynamic involving the CGPME (General Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) is extremely positive: “We are leaving for Israel with the CGPME in October 2013 and we hope to continue this very promising work”.