The Sharjah Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) has called on businessmen and investors in the Emirate of Sharjah to explore and take advantage of the mutual investment opportunities with the business community in France, so as to open new horizons of partnership and develop the long-standing economic, trade and cultural relations between the UAE and France. The SCCI emphasized the importance of France as a promising market within the European Union, expressing its readiness to provide all aspects of support to the private sector in the Emirate of Sharjah to build up business partnerships with the French business community in various fields of investment and to facilitate trade exchange and entry of national products that meet the highest international standards to French markets. The statements came on the sidelines of the Sharjah-France Economic Forum, organized by the SCCI in collaboration with the French Business Council (FBC) in Dubai & Northern Emirates. The forum shed light on the investment opportunities available for the French companies in economic, touristic and cultural sectors in the Emirate of Sharjah. Present at the forum were H.E. Abdallah Sultan Al Owais, Chairman of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, HE Ludovic Pouille, French Ambassador to the UAE, Khaled Jassem Al-Madfaa, Chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, HE Mohamed Ahmed Amin, SCCI’s Director-General. Also president were HE Geoffroy Bunetel, FBC President, Mohamed Juma Al Musharrkh, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah) and Najla Al-Midfa, Chief Executive Officer of Sheraa -Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center, as well as a number of officials from government departments and private sector representatives in Sharjah and France. The forum reviewed the advantages of a number of economic sectors in Sharjah and highlighted the joint investment opportunities in vital sectors including energy and sustainability, free zones sector, government sector, higher education and culture sector, entrepreneurship sector, small and medium-sized enterprises, tourism and hospitality and healthcare sector. The forum also provided an opportunity for businessmen from both countries to discuss cooperation and investment opportunities available for both sides, strengthen trade relations and promote mutual investment between Sharjah and France. Sharjah: Ideal hub for French Companies At the outset of the forum, HE Abdallah Sultan Al Owais welcomed members of the French Business Council, wishing that the forum will contribute to enhancing the economic and trade relations, as well as the cooperation between the two friendly countries, stressing that the UAE has strong political, economic and social ties with France. Al Owais added that the forum stresses Sharjah’s good reputation on the economic level and reaffirm its cultural and scientific position on the international level. It also reflects Sharjah’s great attention to the spread of culture, the book industry, thought, research, translation and the arts. These efforts have been culminated with naming Sharjah as the World Book Capital City for the year 2019 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This selection is also a culmination of the continuous and sustained efforts of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. Al Owais further said: “The SCCI strives to connect the UAE government, private entities, and Emirati entrepreneurs with the investment entities and businessmen in France. The Chamber is also keen to introduce Sharjah's economic resources and its investment opportunities to the French business community, and seek a joint mechanism of action between the two sides." He added that the economic relations between the UAE and France are dynamic and diversified. This is evident in the bilateral commitment to strengthening political, strategic and commercial relations, as well as military, educational, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation. “Over the past years, the relations between the two countries witnessed a remarkable development in several fields, the most important of which is the economic field, where the French companies and expertise make an important contribution to the development process of the UAE,” Al Owais pointed out. He added: “This is clearly reflected in the volume of trade in goods and products between the two countries. The UAE ranks second in the GCC countries among the French trade markets. The value of French exports amounted to 3.4 billion euros, the volume of trade between the two countries reached 4.5 billion euros, and there are more than 600 branches of French companies operating in the UAE, most of them are major companies, and the UAE is the largest Gulf investor in France.” Al Owais underscored that the Emirate of Sharjah is considered an ideal hub for French companies in the Middle East. The number of French companies investing in Sharjah reached 113 companies, while the value of exports and re-exports of Sharjah to France recorded 30 million dirhams, according to certificates of origin issued by the SCCI. He stressed that these indicators are the starting point to expand the cooperation between the two countries, organize more joint events in the future, and stimulate the private sector to participate in exhibitions and economic events held by both sides. The Most Important Economic Destinations For his part, HE Ludovic Pouille said that Sharjah is one of the most important economic destinations for France. Additionally, the French Embassy welcomes cooperation with the Sharjah Chamber and coordination of joint efforts that would contribute to pushing economic relations to further advanced stages, so as to serve the business community and reinforce the private sector aspirations of each side on the commercial and investment level. He added that the economic forum is an important step to shed light on the main economic sectors, share experiences and enhance cooperation and investment opportunities. The French Ambassador hailed the efforts exerted by the Sharjah Chamber in terms of organizing this forum to strengthen bilateral relations, as well as to provide facilities for French businessmen and their companies. He called on investors in the UAE to visit France and learn about the most important investment opportunities in various sectors. HE Geoffroy Bunetel said that the forum gives an additional boost to the already strong relations between France and Sharjah, stressing the importance of the emirate as an investment destination for France thanks to its environment conducive to businesses. He highlighted the need to push forward bilateral economic and trade relations to further growth and prosperity, to ensure a positive cooperation and stimulate mutual investments that serve the common interests of both sides, and further double the investment opportunities available in various sectors. Commenting on the event, HE Mohamed Ahmed Amin, SCCI’s Director-General, said: “Our meeting with the French delegation has formed a proper opportunity to discuss relevant commercial and investment cooperation between both sides. Amin further added: “Such meetings with various sectors of friendly countries are a key pillar in the plans of reinforcing the country’s private sector and underlining its potentials and competitiveness. Also, these meetings help enhance the economic and investment promotion, stimulate business communities and economic councils in the UAE to visit Sharjah, learn closely about available opportunities for investment cooperation and take Sharjah as a springboard for their businesses.” The forum included a presentation by the SCCI on the economic situation in the Emirate of Sharjah, the future prospects and services provided by the Chamber to companies wishing to invest in the emirate. The presentation also shed light on the role played by SCCI to maintain industrial, commercial and development sustainability through offering a number of value added services and sparing no efforts to create new business opportunities. During the event, the Sharjah International Airport Free Zone (SAIF ZONE) outlined its diverse services provided to investors, which made it one of the most important free zones in the region offering exclusive advantages and incentives that attract foreign investments and provide advanced infrastructure and facilities, which investors are looking for. The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, known as "Shurooq” drew attention to its existing opportunities in Sharjah across various sectors, especially tourism, entertainment, healthcare, environmental development, transportation, logistics, industry, etc., which are in line with the economic diversification strategy and openness to foreign investment in the emirate. An emphasis was made on the importance of exerting further efforts to increase and enhance the volume of economic and trade exchange between the two sides to realize the sought-after goals. Also, the meeting highlighted the importance of finding a mechanism that bolsters the private sector of both sides through holding periodic meetings between the community of businessmen in the two countries and organizing specialized exhibitions in Sharjah for French products and encouraging the participation of Sharjah businessmen in exhibitions held in France, which contributes to increasing investment rates.