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SALT LAKE CITY — The French Consul General came to Salt Lake City Tuesday and said Great Britain's decision to leave the European Union would have little impact on the trade pacts Utah has with France.
“I really don’t see why 'Brexit' would change anything because of solidity of the partnerships that were established in the past years,” French Consul General Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens said in response to questions about "Brexit," the term representing Britain's vote to leave the European Union.
He addressed an audience of local business people at the City Creek offices of World Trade Center Utah in downtown Salt Lake City. He said Utah’s exports to France have increased by nearly 25 percent since 2012 and the momentum will likely continue.
Based in San Francisco, Lebrun-Damiens, the diplomat in charge of trade matters between the two entities, told the group that the economic relationship between France and Utah has been strong and maintains a strong cultural relationship.
Some audience members questioned what impact Great Britain’s decision to exit the European Union might have on local trade. Lebrun-Damiens said that he could not speak officially on the matter, but was generally optimistic about the future of his nation’s economic fortunes.
He noted that France’s recent economic indicators are “turning green,” which has signaled accelerating economic growth. He said expansion has outpaced forecasts made for 2016 and is expected to continue.
Noting that he was visiting Utah for the first time, Lebrun-Damiens said he was surprised by the diversity of the Beehive State’s economy.
“For a state like this, it is not at all focused on one or two sectors,” he said. “It’s focused on multiple sectors of activities and business.”
The state’s robust economy is what gives him confidence that the relationship between France and Utah will continue to be prosperous, he said.
“Our economy is growing and Utah has very strong economic growth as well,” he said. “Both have sectors that have strong companies, (such as) energy, transportation, tech, commodities and so forth.”
He said there are many opportunities to develop trade and investment in those sectors and others in the coming years.
“Utah entrepreneurs should know the French market and French entrepreneurs should know the Utah market,” he said. “The future is bright for more opportunities to develop.”
World Trade Center president and chief executive officer Derek Miller said plans are already in the works to further ties between Utah and France.
“(For instance), we have a great partnership with the economic development agency of (the French Riviera), I expect that will continue to grow,” Miller said.