The Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of France to Kazakhstan Jean-Charles Berthonnet responds questions of the Kazakhstan magazine.
How do you characterize the current trade and economic cooperation between our countries?
In my opinion, the economic and trade relations between France and Kazakhstan are quite dynamic, complementary and have good potential.
Kazakhstan, in recent time unacknowledged or even unknown, is now a privileged area for French investments. In the last two and half years, the flow of French investments into the country has risen to $3.2 billion that exceeds the overall level of investments in 1997–2007. The exchange between our enterprises has strengthened, facilitated by an unprecedented cycle of bilateral meetings of the top leaders, especially the visit of the President of the French Republic Nicolas Sarkozy to Astana in October of 2009 and the visit of the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev to France in October of this year.
Today, the share of French companies in the market of Kazakhstan continues increasing, ranking France eighth among the suppliers and fifth among the clients of your country. The key partnership relations in the strategic sectors of the economy are expanded; examples are the cooperation between Areva and Kazatomprom and participation of Total in the development of the Kashagan and Khvalynskoye oilfields. The economic complementarity of our countries is quite evident: France employs the technologies Kazakhstan is in need of to develop its natural resources and diversify the economy. So, there is big potential for the strengthening of economic and trade relations, while the lines of cooperation are viewed as promising in all fields, including the power sector, space exploration, transport, water resources, and environmental protection...
In late October President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev paid a visit to France. What results did that visit have?
In economic terms, following the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozi in 2009 Nursultan Nazarbayev paid a return visit to France that laid a new phase in the strengthening of the industrial and trade relations between the two countries.
We became witness to the signing of agreements of top priority as to the setting up of many industrial joint ventures in Kazakhstan. In particular, Alstom jointly with Kazakhstan Temir Zholy and Transmashholding will be manufacturing 295 electric locomotives in the total amount of 1.4 billion Euros. The Eurocopter Company jointly with Kazakhstan Engineering will be assembling helicopters under a €40.2 million contract. The National Atomic Company Kazatomprom JSC and Areva agreed to set up a joint venture for production of fuel assembly on the basis of the Ulbisnky metallurgical plant (€160 million). EADS Astrium and Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary will set up a venture to assemble and test spacecrafts (€100 million). Also, a memorandum of cooperation is signed to set up a JV for assembling, production and commercialization of pilotless aircrafts Sagem Défense Sécurité and Kazakhstan Engineering.
What sectors of the economy of Kazakhstan are seen as most attractive for French business?
French investments traditionally oriented to the raw material sectors are now diversified to the sectors which are determined as those of priority by the industrialization policy of Kazakhstan. These are the infrastructure, transport, technologies with an added value, space exploration, and increase in the raw material value. Tourism and construction where France has a generally recognized experience could also become points of our cooperation.
What investment projects with the participation of French capital are implemented and intended for implementation in Kazakhstan?
In industrial term, the presence of French companies involves two strategic investment projects. The first one is the investments of Areva, developing the uranium deposits jointly with Kazatomprom that makes Kazakhstan the largest uranium supplier in the world. The second project is the investments of Total in NCOC, the consortium which is developing the Kashagan oilfield. The hydrocarbons from the given field will meet a 10% demand for oil by the European Union in the future.
The fulfillment of the contracts that were executed during the President of Kazakhstan’s visit in October of this year will add to strengthening the position of French companies in the market of Kazakhstan.
What issues are most crucial for further business relations intensification between the countries?
The French businesses realize it necessary to obligatorily participate in the diversification and industrialization of Kazakhstan that is seen as an essential condition for further boosting of economic relations.
This cooperation has to be carried out at many levels. This contemplates, on the one part, a gradual increase in the local content share, and on the other part, promotion of the technologies transfer. Besides, professional training in a form of probation periods at enterprises or studying in France is a key factor to success and intensification of the economic relations between our countries.
As we know, special attention in France is paid to the introduction of innovations. What mechanisms are used for this and how can the experience of your country apply to Kazakhstan?
The transfer of technologies is a core of the French-Kazakhstan relations, serving as a basis of our partnership. During the last year’s visit of President Sarkozy to Kazakhstan, the parties entered into an intergovernmental agreement on the establishment of a French-Kazakhstani center for transfer of technologies. The center, being, in fact, a platform for the entrepreneurs of the two countries, is aimed to assist the enterprises in their offering of up-to-date technologies in Kazakhstan. Concerning this, I would like to emphasize that soon the technoparks now created in Astana by the French enterprises will be launched into operation.
Our relations in the fields such as education, culture and arts are traditionally strong. What latest initiatives in this area can you mention?
There are a lot of initiatives, in fact, and their number is increasing steadily. If to speak about pure culture, I can say that in the course of visit of Mr. Nazarbayev to Paris, an exhibition devoted to Kazakhstan hosted in the Guimet Museum, the oldest museum of Asian art in the world. Besides, the Presidents Sarkozy and Nazarbayev agreed on the conducting of art seasons in France and Kazakhstan. Also, in September of the current year a French film week was conducted in the framework of the Eurasian film festival. The French culture weeks, The Autumn Meetings and The Francophonie Week, which are traditionally organized by the French Embassy, are perceived by the Kazakhstani people with more and more interest.
In the area of higher education and research I would like to point out the increased number of programs for exchange of students. This became possible owing to the efforts of the Almaty-based representative office of CampusFrance, French alliances and reading halls in Astana, Almaty, Karaganda and Kostanai.
Moreover, the practice of scientific exchange and issue of joint diplomas is in progress. A vivid example is the project of the Center of Geoenergetika, developed by the Nancy-Université in collaboration with their partners from the Kazakh Technical University and Kazakh National University of Almaty. We could proceed on reading out the list of joint initiatives and events, it’s long. Among them are the grants of Total provided to graduates of the Academy of Public Administration in Astana, which is developing its relations with the École Nationale d'Administration (ENA), and the building of steady relations between the French higher schools and University named after Nazarbayev, and many others initiatives as well.