x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

France pushes for stronger energy and tourism ties with UAE

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week:  The French president François Hollande yesterday expressed hopes for greater commercial cooperation with the UAE across a number of sectors including renewable energy, defence, transportation and tourism.

The French president Francois Hollande, centre, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, during the strategic business dialogue at the Emirates Palace yesterday. Bertrand Langois / AFP
The French president Francois Hollande, centre, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, during the strategic business dialogue at the Emirates Palace yesterday. Bertrand Langois / AFP

The French president François Hollande yesterday expressed hopes for greater commercial cooperation with the UAE across a number of sectors including renewable energy, defence, transportation and tourism.

The two countries are committed to boosting trade between them by 50 per cent in the coming five years, doubling the flow of tourists as well as launching joint development projects in other countries.

"We have talked with the president of the federation, Sheikh Khalifa [the President], and the prime minister on all subjects - defence, economic, investment," he said during his visit to Dubai yesterday evening after a morning spent in Abu Dhabi.

"But it is the businesses which sign the contracts. They must look together to form their partnerships. We have to define the domains on which the Emirates and France can form a strategy to invest in renewable energy and future energy."

Jets and oil were also expected to be on the agenda during his trip. The UAE has a requirement for 60 next-generation strike fighters and France has hopes it may buy the Dassault Rafale fighter.

"We think it's a very good plane. We think it's an exceptional technology. We have told our Emirati friends. They haven't answered yet. It's not the president of France who sets the price of the planes. So it's a matter of negotiation … You know the Emirates have already done a lot to buy French equipment," Mr Hollande said.

He was also reportedly in Abu Dhabi to help France's Total to position itself ahead of Royal Dutch Shell and other international major oil companies in the race to win a slice of the 2014 renewal of the emirate's largest onshore oil concession, Adco.

However, Mr Hollande refused to be drawn on the likelihood of concluding a deal in either sector.

"You know my way. I don't talk about contracts … We will not ask for any privilege or advantage. We are here as partners," he said.

Mr Hollande also proposed energy producers and consumers build a common fund for investment in alternatives to fossil fuel.

"We can act together to be capable of creating a post-oil world," he said at the opening of the World Future Energy Summit in the capital yesterday where he also attended the signing of a joint declaration to cooperate on renewable energy and energy efficiency between France and Abu Dhabi clean energy company Masdar.

Failure to spend in developing renewable energy will increase demand for fossil energy and "make its prices unaffordable", besides increasing risks of global warming, he said.

The French president yesterday also met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces at a UAE-France strategic business dialogue event at the Emirates Palace.

The meeting was attended by high-level representatives from both countries from key industrial sectors such as aerospace, transport, water and environment, energy and healthcare.

"A number of new opportunities for commercial partnership have been identified in a range of sectors," a statement on WAM said.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, being built on Saadiyat Island, is expected to open in 2015 and will form the heart of the emirate's new cultural district.

"It is a testament to the particular place that France holds in this region," said Mr Hollande.

* with agencies

ayee@thenational.ae