French Trade Minister Pierre Lellouche.
(photo credit: Courtesy/French Trade Ministry )
France’s trade links with Israel are behind where they should be despite the
strengthening of diplomatic relations since Nicolas Sarkozy became president in
2007, French Trade Minister Pierre Lellouche said Wednesday in Tel
Lellouche, who met with reporters during a two-day visit here, said
many French companies still refrain from doing business with Israel out of fear
of losing Arab clients. But he said the French business community needed to
realize that Israel is now a significant economic player that enjoys strong
growth and holds large potential for French firms and
Bilateral trade increased 11 percent last year to 2.29 billion
euros, Lellouche said, “but this is still not enough for us.”
delivered 1.29 billion euros worth of goods to Israel in 2011, making it the
country’s second-largest Middle Eastern export destination behind Egypt, he
said. However, this comparison excludes North African countries such as Tunisia,
which still enjoys a far higher volume of trade with France than Israel
Lellouche, who spoke immediately after meeting with members of the
Israeli-French Chambers of Commerce, said there were about 150 dual nationals in
Israel who could play a role in developing economic relations between the two
countries. He said he would reiterate to French businessmen back at home what
Sarkozy has been saying on the diplomatic front: that they can be friends of
Israel and of the Arab countries simultaneously.
Lellouche also addressed
the topic of European Union sanctions against Iran, rejecting an accusation from
a reporter for a French-language publication who said they had not gone far
enough. Calling the decision to impose an oil-import embargo and to freeze
assets of Iran’s central bank “unprecedented,” Lellouche said it proved Europe’s
and France’s leadership on this issue.
Lellouche, who is Jewish, recalled
warmly his first visit to Israel 40 years ago as a kibbutz volunteer, but said
the experience taught him that socialism was wrong.
On the domestic
front, he is known for having authored the “Lellouche Law,” legislation adopted
in 2003 that stiffened penalties for anti- Semitic and racist offences.