Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Algeria: Economic concerns push Kouchner aside

The French government appears to have given in to Algerian intransigence in an effort to improve relations, particularly in the economic sphere, by taking responsibility for the bilateral relationship away from foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. Kouchner is disliked by the Algerian authorities, who have refused to authorise a visit by him to Algiers twice in the course of a year. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has appointed former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin to manage Algerian affairs, alongside the secretary general of the Presidency, Claude Guéant, who has met Algerian prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia frequently over the past year.

Raffarin is now in charge of an economic cooperation mission between the two countries aimed at spurring investment. “If our country is one of the top economic partners of Algeria, nothing is perfect and we must stay alert in order to maintain and increase our position and market as much as possible,” said Sarkozy in a mission statement to the former PM. He also mentioned the “difficulties” experienced by French companies operating in Algeria. By appointing a high-level official in charge of economic relations between the two countries, the French are demonstrating their will to provide tangible support to their presence in Algeria, he said.

France's foreign trade secretary, Anne Marie Idrac, was in Algiers in mid September to discuss French investment in the country. Accompanied by representatives of French businesses, she held discussions with investment promotion minister Mohamed Benmeradi, which centred on Algeria's new regulations contained in the supplementary finance law for 2010. Idrac said that French companies had invested $2.7 billion in Algeria last year, and that French companies were demanding “some advantages” to encourage them to invest further in the country. She also confirmed that French car manufacturer Renault was ready to invest in the country. One of the largest investment deals was drawn up by French energy group Total, which in 2007 announced that it would put $5 billion into the construction of a petrochemicals plant in Arzew.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

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