Club France Says Legal Climate Slowing Trade

Originally published in The Moscow Times on June 30, 2000

The growing presence of the French community in Moscow is reflected in its increased business activity and in the number of Club France members. But the challenging legal climate remains the greatest barrier to foreign investment and French-Russian economic relations, said Club France members at its third annual general meeting Tuesday.

Although French exports to Russia have not attained their pre-crisis levels, there has been marked improvement in comparison with the first six months following the crisis, said Patrick Berger, chief of the Economic and Financial Mission of the French Embassy.

Berger said that France's pre-crisis exports to Russia averaged 23 billion French francs ($3.3 billion). After the crisis, exports fell to approximately 500 million francs ($72.6 million), while figures for the past six months show an increase to 800 million francs.

French investments in Russia also show signs of rebirth. In 1996 and 1997, the flow of investments was slightly less than 400 million francs per year, and 1998 statistics show that they topped

1 billion francs, said Berger. He added that according to provisional statistics for the first nine months of 1999, French investments were 700 million francs.

Club France membership and activities reflect this upward trend. "Two years ago, we had 70 member companies. Last year there were 80 companies [and] 240 members. And this year there are 98 companies [and] 302 members," said Club France president Guy Mara .

The Paris-based Club France is a nonprofit independent association founded in May 1997. Its goal is to facilitate contacts among the French-speaking business community in Russia and to promote professional competence.

In 2001, the club plans to open an office in Moscow and to develop its local Internet web site and journal, said Club France treasurer, Emmanuel Quidet.

A major obstacle to smooth economic relations is Russia's vague and arbitrary legal…

Read the full text at The Moscow Times.