Competitiveness is a strategic issue and should be viewed as such my national governments. In his latest report, Companions in Competitiveness: How France and the United States Can Help Each Other Succeed in the Twenty-First Century, senior fellow Nicholas Dungan emphasizes that short term strategies are insufficient to address the relative loss of competitiveness in France and the United States vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Ultimately, both countries must enact competitiveness plans at the national level in order to ensure a comprehensive strategy for maintaining a competitive economy in the future.

At the report’s January 21 launch, Dungan explained his major findings. Several economic and governmental experts joined to share their reactions to, and insights drawn from, the report.

Philippe Bouyoux, head of the department of economic affairs at the Embassy of France in Washington, described his reaction to the report’s findings and elaborated on measures that the government of France has taken to increase French competitiveness.

Evariste Lefeuvre, chief economist at Natixis North America, cautioned that the particularities of French culture require a nuanced approach to changes in economic policy. Bearing this caveat in mind, Lefeuvre suggested a number of ways that France can position itself on the path to increasing economic health and competitiveness. Lefeuvre stressed the need for labor market reforms in France. He also highlighted the inefficiency of the French educational system, noting that there is a need for more developed vocational training programs in order to take full advantage of the country’s economic potential.

Doug Goudie, director of international government affairs at Pfizer, Inc, made a similar argument from a US perspective. Goudie suggested that the United States could greatly benefit from a candid evaluation of the country’s educational goals, a discussion which could lead to increased vocational programs similar to the French model detailed by Lefeuvre. Goudie also argued that infrastructure in the United States needs to be rapidly increased in the near future, or the country will risk witnessing further erosion of its competitive advantage.

After hearing the panel members discuss their opinions and recommendations for future action, roundtable participants engaged in an open debate on the future trajectory of France and the US, and how the two can work together to address the issues presented in the report. Some cautioned that a national competitiveness plan would be ideal in theory, but the implementation of such plans would be difficult. All agreed that raising awareness among the national leadership and the general public is important to ensure the issue is not ignored. The roundtable and the Companions in Competitiveness report serve as but the first step in this long, yet necessary process.

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