The Consul General of France, Philippe Larrieu, visited UC Irvine and discussed France’s current domestic situation and its relations with the United States on Wednesday, April 9. Hosted by the Center for the Study of Democracy and the International Studies program, Larrieu spoke to a group of approximately 20 UC Irvine community members about the complex relationship between the United States and France as a result of the Iraq war and the clichés that are generally held of the French.
“This decade has been one of great diplomatic ups and downs between Paris and Washington,” Larrieu said. “The main point of contention is not a secret either; the American war in Iraq has been a great source of bickering between the two governments.”
However, Larrieu acknowledged the complexity of the U.S.-France relationship due to an alliance that has spanned for more than 200 years since both countries became republics. Although the United States and France have had their fair share of public disputes regarding the war, Larrieu said that French soldiers are fighting alongside U.S. soldiers in Iraq. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also pledged more French troops to Afghanistan late last month. According to National Atlantic Treaty Organization figures, France currently has 1,515 soldiers in Afghanistan.
In regard to France’s domestic life, Larrieu claimed the country is doing well economically.
“Make no mistake, France has taken up the challenge of globalization,” Larrieu assured. “France is today one of the most open economies in the world.” Larrieu also emphasized the significance of France taking up 5 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and being the sixth-largest economic power.
Larrieu also addressed some stereotypes that are commonly held of France regarding its domestic state. In response to the claim that the French are always on strike, Larrieu stated, “The social climate in France is actually very good. There are less strikes in France than in companies in the U.S.”
Another stereotype many Americans have of the French is that they do not work as much or as hard as Americans do. According to Larrieu, the French labor productivity is the highest in the world