By LOU WILIN
The storied French-American alliance, which helped America win independence and rescued France in World War II, is better than ever, French Ambassador Francois Delattre said Wednesday in Findlay.
That’s quite a turnaround from 10 years ago, when the comradeship frayed over France’s refusal to join the Iraq war. Only 39 percent of Americans polled then considered France a close ally and friend, Delattre said. Today, 78 percent of Americans polled regard France that way, he said.
“And it fits with the reality,” Delattre said in a University of Findlay program. “If you look at the reality, we are together on every single important issue.”
Take terrorism: France and the U.S. are “each other’s closest allies in the fight against terrorism,” he said.
France’s recent military campaigns against al-Qaida in Africa are much larger than the American press has reported, he said.
“We had to fight there against some of the best-trained, best-equipped, best-funded branches of al-Qaida in the world based on years of drug trafficking, human trafficking, weapons, cigarette smuggling,” Delattre said.
Take Iran: France is shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. when it comes to preventing the Middle Eastern country from getting nuclear weapons, he said.
“A nuclear-armed Iran would mean an existential threat of security of Israel,” Delattre said. “A nuclear-armed Iran would trigger an arms race and potentially a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”
France outshines even Great Britain in fighting along with the U.S. for freedom and democracy, he said.
France and the United Kingdom, “in that order,” together account for 60 percent of the military spending by the 28 European Union countries, he said.
Take trade and jobs: U.S. companies are the world’s top investors in France, Delattre said. France is among the top five foreign investors in the United States, with more than 3,000 French companies supporting over 600,000 jobs in the U.S. In Ohio, 14,000 jobs come from 200 French companies, he said.
France has a pro-business, pro-growth agenda, he said.
“Contrary to what you can read in the press here and there, entrepreneurship is booming like never before in France,” he said. “Over the last 12 months, we found in my country more than 500,000 new business startups.”
Twelve French companies rank among the top 100 in the world, giving it the third most in the world. Only the United States and Japan have more, Delattre said.
France boasts the biggest research and development tax credit in the world, Delattre said.
In an “unprecedented effort,” public-private partnerships are investing $400 billion over five years toward innovation, he said.
Foreign exchange student agreements and other partnerships between U.S. and French universities are boosting research and cooperation between the two countries, he said.
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