The years after World War 2 saw a transformation of the conflict among the developed countries, moving steadfastly from a military to an economic race. Being confronted with the new realities, France had to move forward from a vast colonial empire to a world where it could no longer play a prime role. In 1970, at the height of the decolonization process in Africa and years after the British established their Commonwealth, the Organization of the Francophone Countries was founded in Niger. Widening the reading of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, we can say that today the protection of a country’s interests can be understood at the same time as promoting its interests. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms behind the projection of France’s interests abroad and how they are furthered.
In a context of a constant economic globalization process, resulting in the proliferation of markets and an upsurge in competition, the control of information has become an essential determinant of global competition. Knowledge, innovation and fast adaptability represent the competitive advantage of the 21st century and new-found wealth. While new information and communication technologies now enable rapid and important dissemination of information around the world, collecting and processing the most relevant data is an ongoing challenge. This growing complexity of the business world requires a structured and organized approach to identify potential threats and / or to identify opportunities
Economic intelligence refers to all the activities of collecting, processing and disseminating information useful to economic actors. These activities carried out in a legal and ethical framework.
As a decision-making tool, economic intelligence brings together several complementary activities:
- Forecasting, to know the economic environment, its evolution, especially in respect to the collection of strategic information
- Economic security, in respect to risk management, especially the non-material assets such as patents and other confidential information
- Lobbying, to provide the necessarily framework of development for the economic actors and their access to strategic markets.
- Training, to provide expertise and further refine the knowledge of the concerned parties
Economic intelligence therefore covers a wide range of expertise and areas of application, spanning over the entire intelligence cycle.
- Data collection and analysis
- Protection of the know-how
- Decision support (analysis, decisional mapping, war room, etc.);
- Knowledge capitalization;
- Influence / lobbying.
France was one of the first countries to realize the importance and potential of economic intelligence. In fact, a few years after the disintegration of the USSR, in 1994, the Martre Report was published, which is considered the basis of the French economic intelligence system, in which there is an organization at the highest level that is responsible for defending the national interests and increase their own influence in the international sphere. This is the Committee for Competitiveness and Economic Security, dependent on the prime minister. In addition, of the concept a national policy was adopted towards the protection of France’s technological and industrial assets.
The French concept of economic intelligence is rich and complex, built gradually and recently institutionalized through the establishment of a French “public policy of economic intelligence”. Linked to the French history and culture of an important place given to the State, influenced by the systemic and constructivist conception that runs through many social science researches in France, the concept has different characteristics from what one can find in other countries. The concept of economic intelligence also has other characteristics that make it the (unfinished) result of a social construction rooted in the French context, so much so that one can speak, as Moinet proposes. economic intelligence as being “an innovation” in the French way”.
France is a world economic power and the French are fully aware that in today’s interconnected world it is necessary to work to maintain the status quo, especially due to the far greater competition to acquire and maintain a leading role on big markets as well as in the emerging one. For this, France has been concerned for a long time to have a specialized institution dedicated to protecting its interests as well as those of the French companies.
French diplomacy remains a very agile and active institution, on the one hand, to maintain good relations with its traditional allies and former colonies and, secondary, to foster new relationships with emerging powers whenever opportunities arise.
In addition, the French diplomacy not only promote economic agreements but also promote French cultural activities abroad, exchange of students or cooperation for development, which are tools of influence of those that make up the concept of soft power.
Economic intelligence brings added value by facilitating the internationalization of the markets, contributing to the protection of the actor’s information, early-warning of significant political risks and ultimately, providing assistance necessary for both companies and the public sector to continue to create the basis of a country’s prosperity. The success of this action depends on the establishment of a direct relationship between the intelligence services and the national companies, of a public-private partnership based on the principle of mutual trust.