An American in Bordeaux

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A city open to the world: Bordeaux embodies it perfectly. At the time of Dan Hall’s departure to the post of Consul of the United States in Bordeaux, it is an opportunity to highlight the impact of consular activity on the territory of New Aquitaine. As Dan Hall flies to his next destination, which is none other than the State Department in Washington, his work at the U.S. Consulate has witnessed the strong cultural and economic ties between France and the United States. The dynamic presence of the American Consulate in Bordeaux finally shows that the region is a relevant step in thinking about the diplomacy of the territories.

The crucial role of consulates

At a time of political tensions due in particular to the trade war between the United States and China or more recently France’s desire to impose a GAFA tax, consulates embody a way to promote sometimes difficult exchanges between two countries. If, unlike embassies, consulates have primarily an administrative function in protecting the nationals of the country in question, the American Consulate in Bordeaux also operates in the economic field by helping American companies to establish themselves on the Bordeaux metropolis.

Maintaining consular activity is not insignificant, especially from an economic point of view. For example, some countries are choosing to reduce consular activities in order to implement fiscal austerity. This is particularly the case for Senegal, which announced at the beginning of July that it would end the four consulates general in Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseille.

The consultates are also relayed by regional branches and organizations that participate in the rapprochement of two countries. This is particularly the case with the United States and the Bordeaux USA association, which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. Consulates thus participate in animate a network of bilateral understandings and ties of interest. Twinning is active in this regard. The twinning between the city of Bordeaux and that of Los Angeles dates back to 1964. The twinning between Bordeaux and Los Angeles was signed in 1964, the year that marked the birth of the Bordeaux-USA association. This formalization of partnership also concerns university exchanges. In total, more than 3,000 young Americans were able to discover Bordeaux and its region, and more than 1,500 Bordeaux students were able to stay in California. The University of California at Davis is thus linked to the University of Bordeaux-Montaigne through partnerships. The Consul has advocaal missions with colleges and high schools in order to raise children’s awareness of American culture.

By performing public and commercial functions, the consulate must also, through its missions, meet a requirement of economic diplomacy. This term was first mentioned in 2013 by Laurent Fabius, former Minister of Foreign Affairs. It refers to the use of the tools of a country’s diplomatic network such as consulates to develop the economic opportunities of a territory. Economic diplomacy must be able to benefit from a local and total diplomatic anchorage.

Total local anchorage

The strong link between Bordeaux and the United States is first and foremost historic. Indeed, Bordeaux was chosen as the first French diplomatic post by the Americans in 1778 due to the strong presence of Bordeaux merchants. Bordeaux thus began a major American consular network on the national territory at the time of the War of Independence thanks to its economic attractiveness. Indeed, Bordeaux was in the process of asserting itself as one of the main French ports for trade with the United States, competing with another French port, that of Le Havre. At present, this economic anchoring continues as the United States is the largest customer of the New Aquitaine Region, particularly in the construction, aeronautics and agri-food sectors. Thus, if Bordeaux is marked by a significant consular presence, it is because it is home to 41 nationalities among foreign-owned companies present on its territory according to the ADI. The United States is the second country to invest in New Aquitaine at 13% after Germany in 2018.

However, although the American Consulate was inaugurated in 2000 in Bordeaux, initiatives are still in the making. Vinexpo was founded in 1981, but it was only the first year that New York wines were presented. The city of Bordeaux must therefore increase its availability to make its diplomatic network an economic and cultural engine for the Region.

Protection, law, information… the role of consulates is much more diverse than the spectrum of purely administrative functions. In the U.S. case, the Consulate thus monitors the dynamics of American companies and investors in the Territory of New Aquitaine. There is no doubt that President Trump’s presence at the G7 from 24 to 26 August 2019 in Biarritz should be an opportunity for the US Consulate to once again strengthen the Franco-American friendship.

Justine ANGIBAUD

Sources:

Bordeaux Business, “Daniel Hall, Consul of the United States for New Aquitaine”

Official website of U.S. embassies

Official website of the Bordeaux City Council

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