French diplomats explore trade opportunities

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(Host) A delegation of French diplomats is here this week to look at ways to expand tourism and trade opportunities between Vermont and France. The French delegation says they’re also very interested in meeting with Vermont agriculture officials to discuss marketing strategies for homegrown products.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The delegation is being led by the French consul general to New England, Francois Gauthier. The group is holding a series of meetings with state agriculture, tourism and economic development officials. Gauthier thinks there’s a great opportunity to encourage more French tourists to come to Vermont because of the strong French heritage and culture that exists in the state:

(Gauthier) “There are half a million French tourists who come to Quebec every year and if we can draw some of them to visit Vermont because of the French heritage particularly it will create new opportunities in terms of business for Vermont as well for France.”

(Kinzel) In 2009, the region will mark the quadra-centenniel of the discovery of Lake Champlain by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1609. Gauthier expects that a high level French delegation will come to Vermont to celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary:

(Gauthier) “If you look at the past, I’ve just seen that record that in 1909, if I am not mistaken, the French ambassador was present for the celebration and 50 years ago there was a huge French delegation coming for this event. And it will raise a new opportunity for raising the interest of Vermont in France.”

(Kinzel) Gauthier says he also hopes to engage Vermont agriculture officials in an ongoing discussion about ways to better market locally grown products:

(Gauthier) “We have in France a tremendous experience in that field and I would love to see one or two or three officials from Vermont visiting France to discuss more deeply this aspect.”

(Kinzel) Governor Douglas told the visiting delegation that this is an area of great interest to Vermont as well:

(Douglas) “The Vermont brand is very powerful as we Vermonters know, and we want to be sure in an era where it’s harder and harder to maintain profitable agricultural enterprise – especially in dairy, with the price system that we have – that we capitalize on the brand that’s so powerful literally around the world.”

(Kinzel) There was one subject that the French diplomats were not eager to discuss – their country’s heart breaking loss to Italy in the World Cup on Sunday afternoon:

(Gauthier) “Ha-ha ha-ha, not yet!”

(Kinzel) The French delegation will continue its tour on Tuesday with a visit to the Cabot Creamery.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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