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Interview M. President Bardon to Diplomat Magazine

"French Companies Interest in Georgia Gains Significant Increase daily"

  "For the first time in 1993, I arrived in georgia on a personal visit. My return here is connected with the Castel Group. In 1996, the first French investment was embarked upon in Tbilisi by this group, which I headed. This was one of the first successful projects that were implemented after the independence of Georgia. For 10 years, I was Director General of Castel Georgia, and after Catsel Georgia changed ownership I started my own business" - these words are a kind reminder of the first "French Steps" in Georgia according to Antoine Bardon, the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry France-Georgia. 22 years after this historic French success, he says that the interest of French companies increases significantly daily. The Diplomat sat to discuss with Antoine Bardon about ways to strenghten the business relations between France and Georgia, and what French companies hold potentials to increase investments in Georgia.

 

What directions did your actitivities focus on subsequently ?

 

   I established a consulting company that helped foreign investors with investments in the local market. It was my personal activity.

 

In what way can we compare today's Georgia, with what was first seen in 1993 ?

 

   There is a big difference - after the civil war and internal territorial conflicts, there were severe social and economic problems in the country. The security of the population was not protected. The country faced many challenges and everything looked really bad.

   As for today's situtation in Georgia, we are dealing with an absolutely different model of a country today. Many things have changed for the better and Georgia has gone through the path of progress.

How did you come up with the idea to found the French Chamber of Commerce in Georgia ?

 

   As I have already told you, after my departure from Castel Georgia, I opened my own consulting company. During this period, I have founded the French Businessmen Club together with the director of one of the largest French banks in Georgia, "Société Générale", in 2008. The number of club members gradually increased and in 2011 we decided to set up the Chamber of Commerce and Industry France-Georgia.

   Our Chamber is a member of a network of 112 French Chambers of Commerce and Industry located abroad, the largest private network in the world, with more than 32,000 member companies.

What were the main challenges you had to deal with?

 

   The first big challenges was to make French investments on the background of an unstable economic and political environment; it was difficult to conduct business in Georgia.

What about your expectations, what is your main development path?

 

   Political and financial stability is important for companies and investors to gain confidence. Likewise, the sustainable development of the country is a guarantee of economic growth for the country.

In your opinion, how do you think the trade relations between Georgia and France can be strenghtened?

 

   Given the positive business climate in Georgia today, the interest of French companies is increasing daily. It is necessary to develop and support bilateral trade-economic relations at governmental level, where specific priority sectors can be defined and focus upon.

 

Are French companies able to increase investments in Georgia and vice versa for Georgian companies in this direction?

 

   The potential is great. The largest French companies operating in Georgia are: Atlantic Georgia, Carrefour, Lactalis Georgia, Orange, as well as the hotel network Accord Hotels Group, which invested million in Georgia and contributed to Georgia's economic development. They have a strategy for development and expansion, which is in line with investments.

   As for Georgia, there is potential for development of the agriculture and tourism industry. Georgia also has significant potential for renewable energy, not to mention the transport and infrastructure development sphere.

 

What are your long-term plans?

 

   I am looking foward to a better future. If you look back over the past years, Georgia has made great progress in the development of democracy, economic development, civil society organisations, etc. I do not have the perception that Georgia's young peole would take the country back to the Soviet times, neither do I perceive that they would take the country back to Shevardnadze's era.

Here the link to the online magazine:

issuu.com/observer-diplomat/docs/diplomat_november

H.E. Pascal Meunier, French Ambassador in Georgia, Gaëlle Assayag Chef of the AFD office in the Caucasus region and the French Institut also have their pages.

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