MEDEF International is an organization that plays an important role in establishing business communications between Uzbekistan and France, facilitating high-level meetings between our countries. Its efforts are aimed at participation of France in the processes of further improvement of the business environment and investment of French companies in the economy of Uzbekistan. Christophe Fontaine, Chairman of the MEDEF International Business Council, in an interview spoke about the organization “Movement of French Entrepreneurs” and its joint activities with Uzbekistan.
MEDEF International is a non-profit private organization established in 1989, representing the French confederation of business and 75% of the French private sector abroad. MEDEF International is headed by Mr. Frederick Sanchez, CEO of Fives Group. The organization’s activities are aimed at supporting the international development of French companies and promoting projects and long-term partnerships in foreign markets through 200 collective actions each year (meetings with heads of state and government, ministers, the private sector, public administrations, financial institutions in Paris and business offices abroad). As a significant part of its activities is related to business financing MEDEF International has established strong relationships with international financial institutions and is a private sector liaison officer at the EBRD, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and others.
– Mr. Fontaine, can you tell us about the history of cooperation of MEDEF International with Uzbekistan, the goals of joint activities and the ongoing projects?
The France-Uzbekistan business council of MEDEF International was created in 1992, following the country’s independence. Since 2016, I have been chairing the business council. I am also the president of Roxalex.
In the framework of the business council, MEDEF International has been following the political, economic and social developments affecting Uzbekistan for more than 25 years. We have led business delegations to Tashkent (7 up to this date) and organized meetings in Paris with Uzbek public decision makers and French companies. Furthermore, MEDEF Intentional represents the French private sector at the French-Uzbek Intergovernmental Joint Commission.
Since the beginning of 2017, the council has met 10 times. In order to regularly review the progress of our bilateral cooperation and of French projects in Uzbekistan, I travel regularly to Uzbekistan where I meet with Uzbek authorities and our partners, the former State Committee for Investments, and the Uzbek Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with whom MEDEF International signed MoUs in 2016 and 2018. I wish to take the opportunity to say that Tashkent is a modern, very clean and pleasant city. Whenever I go to Tashkent, I always take the time to make a stop at the Bazar, which reminds me the markets of my childhood.
I also had the honor of accompanying Mr. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for European and Foreign Affairs, during his visit in Tashkent in April 2019, just before leading the 7th business delegation to Uzbekistan with 32 French entrepreneurs in May 2019.
2018 was a very fruitful year for our bilateral relation. In fact, MEDEF International co-organized with the Embassy of Uzbekistan to France two business forums: the first one in July, in presence of Mr. VAFAEV, Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for Investments of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the second one in October, in presence of Mr. KHOLMURADOV, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the State Committee for Investments of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
These successful business forums, gathering up to 100 French companies and Uzbekistan economic partners, were an essential part, each time, to prepare high-level political and economic meetings, as the 7th Joint economic Commission in July, where MEDEF International brought the main messages from the French private sector to the authorities of both countries; and in October, for the historical visit of Mr. MIRZIYOYEV, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
On this occasion, some of the companies present here today have sealed long-term partnerships or started promising relations with Uzbek partners by signing MoUs.
I wish to thank the Uzbek Embassy for its support to French companies, and particularly the Ambassador, Mr. RUSTAMBAEV, for his personal involvement in the enhancement of our bilateral economic and commercial relations.
France is the 16th foreign investor in Uzbekistan: I trust we can do more. About 50 French companies are active in Uzbekistan, in many sectors. French companies are willing to take a more significant part in the development of Uzbekistan and offer various innovative solutions that could address Uzbek development challenges, may it be in the energy, construction, engineering, digital, agriculture, services sectors.
French companies are willing to establish long-term partnerships with Uzbek companies and are also eager to support the Uzbek authorities’ reforms, sharing their expectations in terms of business environment improvements, liberalization of the economy, state support to investment… Some of the companies are or plan to open, by the end of 2019, an office in the capital of Uzbekistan: a sign not only of their great interest and commitment in the Uzbek market, but also that their development in the country is going well.
– Could you tell us more about the meeting held in January 2019 with the delegation of Khokimiyat of Jizzakh region?
– On the 16th of January 2019, MEDEF International welcomed Mr. Azim AKHMEDKHADJAEV, Deputy Governor of Jizzakh region, for a meeting with French companies. This meeting gave to the companies the opportunity to learn about the region and its strategic development plan and the promising sectors of cooperation.
At the end of the meeting, an MoU was signed between Jizzakh region and MEDEF International, to promote the development projects of the region and to better identify the companies that might be interested in Jizzakh.
As a part of the agreement, MEDEF International has taken about 10 French entrepreneurs to Jizzakh on the 16th of May 2016, in the framework of the business delegation to Uzbekistan. French companies were warmly received by the Governor, Mr. SALIEV, and the region and Jizzakh FEZ authorities. French companies also visited various factories and production plants of the region. I was delighted to discover a fast developing region of Uzbekistan, different from the traditional beauties of Samarkand or Bukhara, but with no less opportunities to catch for our companies.
As promising partnerships, the sectors of industry (construction material, automotive), water and waste management and retail have been mainly identified. More could also be done in the textile industry, in green tourism, and in the digital sector. French companies are also ready and committed to the development of Uzbek regions.
– In February 2019, the Uzbek-French business forum was very fruitful, and in May 2019, the MEDEF delegation visited Uzbekistan. These joint high-level business meetings continued the level of active development of bilateral cooperation set in 2018. Tell us briefly about the results of these meetings.