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Sunday, June 4, 2017

France and the Competition for the Highly Skilled Migrant

The new president of France, Emmanuel Macron, has spoken directly to the American people in response to Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord, an international agreement to fight global warming.  Here is Macron's message:

A very good short speech.  I suspect that he deliberately used migration as an example of one of the bad consequences of climate change. For those who are anti-immigration (and they are legion in both the US and France), they hear their own position which is that migration is a bad thing.  Thus,  fighting climate change is also a battle against immigration.  But for the supporters of immigration (or the immigrants themselves) they can assume that Macron was referring to "forced migrations" due to climate change.  Very deft.

The most interesting part of the speech (to me anyway)  was his call to American entrepreneurs, scientists. and researchers to "come and work here [France]."  That might seem to be a complete contradiction to how the French feel about about migration these days.  But note that he did not use the word "immigrate."  Nor did he mention anything about integration.  He did not extol the virtues of French life, language, and culture as reasons to come to the Hexagon.  Macron implies that this is a "come as you are" migration party for the lucky few who fall into the category of "highly skilled migrant."  France wants their degrees, their research, and their entrepreneurial skills and in exchange they are being offered honor, support, and recognition.  A powerful benediction in which the words "migrant" and immigrant" will never be used because these are the kind of "quality foreigners" that even an anti-immigrant country is happy to welcome.

What is particularly noteworthy about this is that it is rare to see such a public invitation to the citizens of another country coming from the highest levels of  the government.  Yes, many countries have programs to attract the highly-skilled but you don't see the Prime Minister of Japan holding a press conference to personally invite French or Germans to bring their talents to the land of the rising sun.  Migrant recruitment (and, yes, they are migrants) exists but it is discreet.  It is as if there were an unspoken agreement among developed nations that, yes, countries can try to skim off the cream of another country's citizens as long as they aren't too obvious about it and the trickle of brains leaving one country for another does not become a flood.

So what Macron said was very daring - an in-your-face shot fired against the Trump administration. But I'd say that there is very little risk involved.  The Trump administration is very unpopular in France and the United States and Macron will only gain politically at home by taking Trump on. And how he did it is fascinating. Macron has used the Internet/social media to bypass the American president completely and to address the American people directly in fluent English.  And what does the world see when it watches this contest?  A young, dynamic leader running circles around a tired, bewildered, old man.



Tim said...

One thing I found intriguing about this speech by Macron is that it was given just before midnight Paris time at which time much of the French "Deep State" and permanent bureaucracy has gone to bed. So there wasn't a lot opportunity for the "Deep State" to barge into the Elysee and say Monsieur President PLEASE don't say this.

Second Macron is not just taking on a fairly ill-tempered American President but more than a few current and former US government officials and academics that I suspect that whatever their feelings about Trump(which probably aren't positive) probably have intense dislike for Macron's effort to "steal" so to speak highly skilled Americans. I could easily imagine someone like former Obama Treasury official Robert Stack who is no fan of Trump still being quite unhappy at Macron for his statement and perhaps even encouraging Trump to retaliate against France. This is probably also true of other US academics like Michael Kirsch, Elise Bean etc.

Tim said...

One caveat to my statement about the French "Deep State" is that the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs released their own video "trolling" one of Trump's videos justifying pulling out of the Paris Accord.

Trump Video

French government "Troll" Video

I don't know how many "unwritten" rules the French Foreign Ministry just broke. I would really like to know what Elise Bean and Robert Stack think of the French Foreign Ministry trolling Trump.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Tim, Honestly I can see no reason why the French "deep state" would bother. This was a low-risk high-reward act. What exactly is Trump going to do about it? How exactly would the US government retaliate without looking like fools or compromising cooperation in security matters. My sense is that the US government, if it does anything at all ( and I highly doubt that they will) will direct their ire against the softer targets: the Americans who leave. But we have certainly seen that movie before, haven't we? :-)

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Again, Tim, I think this is a low-risk maneuver by the French state and not just Macron. The US government might sputter and spit a bit but ultimately they will let it go.

Tim said...


Well an easy way of retaliating on the part of the US is to go after French banks or French companies doing business in the United States on pardon the pun "Trumped" up charges. For example fine some French companies/banks for anti money laundering violations, foreign "corrupt" practices violations, or trade sanctions violations to teach that "snot nosed" kid in the Elysee a message.

Remember that while many private American citizens are praising Macron you don't many elected US Democrats even as much as they might hate Trump even retweeting Macron's video or saying any positive about him other than Obama of all people who is now basically retired.

Now there are risks to the US "Deep State" in doing the above in that Macron has shown very little willingness to back down and he might very double down instead leaving the US "Deep State" in any even bigger mess vis a vis US France relations. Having said that we already seeing the fundamental difference between Hollande and Macron. Hollande whatever his views of Trump would never have gotten in Trump's face like this.

**One of the main "Deep State" sources I monitor is Juan Zarate's author of Treasury's War twitter feed. So he has had nothing to say about Macron.

Tim said...

One caveat I will add for those in the US who might dislike Macron is that he is probably the most pro American French leader ever notwithstanding his trolling of Trump which is in fact directed towards Americans themselves in a way completely unheard for a French politician or leader. So to the extent he might have a different policy towards Iran or Israel let's say than the US establishment I suspect it less to do with what French government policy towards Iran was in 1979 than that Macron was less than two years old at the time of Iran Hostage Crisis which is still a defining moment for many American politicians of both parties like Hillary, Trump, Pelosi, Carolyn Maloney, etc who were all very much alive for those horrible events.

Macron if anything as Obama did to a lesser extent embarrasses the US in terms of the geriatric nature of it's political leadership both Republicans AND Democrats.

Ellen Lebelle said...

Well done. Of course what a president says and what really happens are different things.
There are no orders changing the rules for getting visas to work on France. There is no indication that Americans will have certain banking restrictions lifted (FATCA related).
But it could incite certain engineers and researchers to look for jobs, here, to qualify for a Visa. It could encourage French headhunters to widen their search area.

Maria said...

Macron just made Trump a laughingstock. Wait, no. Trump did that all by himself; Macron is just pointing it out and expressing in words what most of Europe thinks. I would love to know what Angela Merkel opines about the whole farce the U.S. Executive Branch has evolved into. The look on her face at certain moments says much. I just wish she would give us the corresponding words!

On the other hand, Trump can't do much against France. As was pointed out when he complained of a trade deficit with Germany, there are no individual treaties with European countries now, it's with all of the European Union. Maybe he might target a French company as a petty act of vengeance, but he just might end up getting into a diplomatic crisis with the entire E.U. over it. Not good business. Though, with five bankruptcies, you can't argue Trump is a good businessman, either.

Eric said...

U.S. government officials have quite a long history of complaining about other countries' attempts to solicit Americans to emigrate. Favourite example from my bookmarks:

"Probably no countries except the United States and the United Kingdom would tolerate emigration propaganda of the nature now being conducted in this country by Canada ... undoubtedly the United States could, if it would, forbid a continuance of the Canadian propaganda without in the least endangering its adherance [sic] to the so-called doctrine of 1868 respecting the freedom of emigration."

At the time of publication, the author was Chief of the Contract Labor Division in the U.S. Department of Labor. He would go on to serve as U.S. Commissioner-General of Immigration from 1921 to 1925.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Good point, Ellen. Politicians are well-known for "moving air" around. France is part of the EU Blue Card scheme and does have programs like the passeport talent. But then so does a lot of other countries like Canada and Japan. My sense is that foreign academics and researchers are very welcome and certainly the French don't see them as undesirable. And I would say there is more status associated with being an academic in France than there is in the US. I don't hear much of the "Those that can't do, teach" and "those damn over-educated liberal professors" mentality that I encountered so often when I was living in the US. As for the FATCA stuff I need to think about that one. My sense is that FATCA isn't having an impact because Americans are still clueless about it. I could be very wrong about that. But let's look for the evidence and talk to people and see what we come up with.

Maria, Yep, have to agree with you about the self-inflicted nature of Trump's troubles. I read US "conservative" media as well as "liberal media" and it's fascinating to watch them play defense. They do it very badly and there strategy seems to be deflection. Look over here at what Hillary did! And so? Trump is the main event and the mainstream media and late night comedy in the US is making a killing off him. What would Americans rather watch: another dull policy speech by Clinton or the daily drama that is the White House?
The ratings are the answer.

And I disagree with Tim that they might or even could do something against Macron and France. Trump can't even staff his own administration, I doubt he could lead an extended campaign against any country at this point. He's just not that disciplined.

And I would like to clarify that I am not anti-Trump. I thought it was very interesting to see a populist (not a conservative) win. Here you go, folks, here is your chance to convince the rest of us that you have something to offer, as opposed to constantly grumbling about the nefarious actions of the other party. Easier to grumble than to govern. Time to step up, folks.

I liked what Trump said during the campaignabout health care (better cheaper, health care for everyone) and infrastructure (needs funding). I didn't like a lot of other things he said but I thought "give the guy a chance." Now, my sense is that he's in way over his head and is too proud to admit it. And that is unfortunate for him and for us. My .02.

Tim said...


I am actually coming around to your view vis a vis the US and Macron. Simply put everything involving US Foreign Policy right now seems to be a dumpster fire. Especially now with what appears to be a disastrous UK election with Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May in terms of US "interests"

I am happy you brought up Trump's infrastructure plans. This is something that is talked about frequently as a panacea for the US' economic woes . However, I note that both France and Japan have heavily invested in infrastructure but neither country has necessarily seen unemployment reduce dramatically. Food for thought I guess and something that is probably worth another blogpost.

**In France in particular there is an argument that there is still a wide variation in the state of infrastructure, TGV Trains for example vs more run down RER commuter trains. France though has gone to great lengths in terms of automating trains for example something that is close to unheard of in the US.

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Victoria FERAUGE said...

Eric, Good point. There was quite the competition between the US and Canada for citizens and both complained a lot of about poaching. I don't hear so much about it today and I really wonder why. Any ideas?

Sorry that your comment appeared so tardily. It ended up in the spam bucket for some reason. I rescued it a few moment ago. Sorry about that.