Political alliances may be forged by historical circumstances as much as by common economic objectives.
That seemed to be the message underlying French President Emmanuel Macron‘s invitation to U.S. President Donald Trump to attend Bastille Day celebrations this year in Paris.
Louis de Corail echoed this sentiment when he addressed 150 representatives of French communities from throughout the Southeast attending the national day celebration July 14 hosted in Buckhead by the law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP‘s office.
A reflective Mr. de Corail honored the deaths of 116,000 U.S. soldiers who fought in the World War I killing fields of France as they had been honored across the Atlantic Ocean during Mr.Trump’s visit to Paris for the Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysees.
In the spirit that brought soldiers of the U.S. and French military to march together on the Champs Elysees, Mr. de Corail recalled the participation of 2 million American soldiers who “went to France to fight alongside its troops.”
“In Picardie, in Champagne, and Lorraine, the American troops participated in all of the victorious counter-offensives,” he said. He also focused specifically on the role of Southern troops, especially the 167th Regiment composed of National Guardsmen from Alabama.
The regiment’s valor, especially in the Battle of Croix Rouge Farm in July 1918, was honored at Maxwell Air Force Base earlier this year, he added, with a ceremony including a flyover by the French Air Force aerobatic team, the Patrouille de France.
In addition to his reflections on the World War I dead, he cited those who were killed a year ago in Nice in a terrorist attack by the driver of a truck that careened into a crowd during Bastille Day celebrations.
Mr. de Corail, however, did not limit his comments to past, mournful events.
“Today our two countries stand at the threshold of a new era,” he said, adding that they are “more closely united than many think, even though we may disagree occasionally on some topics.”
Putting the disagreements aside for a moment, he underscored the mutual economic ties and pointed to France’s role in 2015 as the second source of job-creating foreign direct investment in the U.S., only surpassed by Canada.
In addition, he praised France’s “start-up ecosystem,” saying that research and development spending by foreign companies in Greater Paris is equal to that in Silicon Valley. Only a few days beforehand, he added, Station F, “the largest start-up incubator in the world” opened in Paris, and he asserted that France has the highest number of venture capital rounds in Europe, “overtaking our friends from the U.K. and Germany.
These positive developments were further enhanced by 182 new projects launched by U.S. companies last year to become the second-ranked job-creating foreign investor in France, he said.
He specifically cited $230 million invested by FedEx Corp. in the Roissy Charles DeGaulle Airport, “just one year after a similar investment was made by UPS near Paris.”
“These are the facts,” he said. “We value entrepreneurs, we support innovation. We are open to foreign investment and we want to further improve our attractiveness.”
Mentioning Paris also enhanced his ardor, saying he didn’t need to underline how attractive a city it is. “If you have any doubts, please take one of the many flights operated by our friends from Delta Air France-KLM, “two companies which just celebrated the 10th anniversary of the most successful joint venture in the history of civil aviation.”
Nor did he leave any doubt in which city should host the 2024 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has voted in favor of naming Paris and Los Angeles as hosts for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in 2024 ad 2028, but has held off from declaring which city is to come first.
“Paris 2024 will be about sharing the best we have to offer: our city, its soul, outstanding games for athletes and audiences alike, a unique experience for everyone, in the very heart of Paris,” Mr. de Corail interjected. “So let me just say this in confidence, from one Olympic city to another: we are the best candidate.”
As for the disagreements between France and the U.S., he also was adamant.
“France has made a clear choice; there will be no going back on global issues such as climate change, international security and global trade; there will be no exiting the European Union, no retreating into splendid isolation,” he said.
“With our European partners, Germany the first among them (and I find it quite symbol that Chancellor Merkel was also in Paris yesterday) we are looking to the future.”
Atlantans should be pleased to learn that planning for France-Atlanta 2017 is ongoing, marking the eighth year that the two-week program focused on innovation in a wide array of fields is to be held.
“With the help of digital, cultural and technological innovations, we are confident we an ‘make our planet great again,” he said, quoting his president.