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April 15, 2010

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Building a global finance hub

IT is thrilling to recall that, back in December 2002, the Paris-based World Expo Committee chose Shanghai to be the host of the 2010 Expo. One hundred and fifty-nine years after the first Great Exhibition of All Nations in London in 1851, China will be the first developing country hosting the Expo.

World Expositions have become an important platform to exchange innovative ideas, display historical experience while looking to the future, and to anchor economic, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges.

Strong of a rich and ancient civilization, China has been at the heart of international exchanges. Thanks to its remarkable economic development over the past 30 years, Western eyes see China as a fascinating country and a major center of interest. The impact and the visibility of Expo 2010 will be considerable, not only in China but throughout the world.

The choice of Shanghai for this exhibition also reflects the support and confidence of the international community in China's reform and opening-up. It expresses our high expectations and our confidence in China's future development. In this vein, I am pleased to observe that, French authorities have been the very first ones to confirm their participation in the Expo 2010, hence symbolizing their commitment to this event.

The theme "Better City, Better Life" embraces universal concepts. Looking toward the future and caring about ways to improve living conditions, it evokes sustainable development, biodiversity, diversity, technology and well-being. It reminds us that we are living in a fast-changing world, more global than ever. This echoes the motto chosen for our group - "A Changing World" - a world filled with challenges and opportunities.

The relationship between BNP Paribas and Shanghai has always been quite distinctive. The group's presence in China can be traced back to 1860. At the time, the Comptoir d'Escompte National chose Shanghai to open its first Asian office. I am delighted that we will celebrate BNP Paribas' 150th year of presence in Shanghai in 2010. Given our long-term commitment to China it is no surprise that the International Bank of Paris and Shanghai, formed in Shanghai in 1992, was the first Sino-foreign joint-venture bank in Shanghai. Nearly 25 years later we have been able to convert our branches throughout China into wholly owned branches of BNP Paribas (China) Ltd.

Despite the harshness of the financial and economic crisis, Shanghai is speeding up its efforts to build an international financial center. The support and determination of the central government is a helpful support to that endeavour. I have no doubts that the Expo 2010 will reinforce the status of Shanghai not only as an international city, but also as an international financial center.

The global index of financial centers, carried out every year for the City of London, shows that Shanghai has consistently been one of the top three centers expected to become more significant in Asia. In addition, there has been a clear increase in the number of mentions in 2009. I am confident that this trend will be confirmed next year.

Expo 2010 is a unique opportunity to speed up Shanghai's development as an international center. From a seasoned banker's perspective, my advice to Chinese authorities would be to offer an environment complying with international standards in terms of finance, regulation or fiscal rules.

From my frequent travels to Shanghai, I have experienced that this is a vibrant city, and China's most cosmopolitan city. The Expo will reinforce its status as an international city. I am convinced that Shanghai will enjoy this year a similar success and wish the Expo 2010 the best of luck.

(This message has been abridged to suit the limited space.)


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