Taking place at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Round-Table, brought together representatives from more than 20 leading French companies as well as 20 representatives from the Sharjah government and various leading Sharjah based businesses, with the aim of bringing the Authority and business community closer to the French Business community and creating synergies and opportunities of mutual benefit for both communities. Sharjah business leaders and prominent members of the French Business Community discussed a number of topics, including logistics, renewable energy sources and environmental issues, travel and tourism, as well as the healthcare sector, in line with the Emirates development strategy. In his inaugural speech, H.E. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Shurooq CEO,emphasized the deep-rooted relations between the UAE and France which are based on strong bonds of friendship and mutual respect and trust –a fact clearly manifested in the several cooperation agreements signed between both countries. "It is therefore not a mere coincidence that the UAE is home to Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and The Louvre Abu Dhabi, among many other cultural French initiatives being implemented in the UAE. Neither is it a coincidence that the first ever French Business Council which was established in the UAE was based in Sharjah," Al Sarkal said. Al Sarkal noted that Shurooq aims through this business forum to bring government and private bodies in Sharjah closer to French investors and businessmen in order to familiarize the French Business community with available investment opportunities in the emirate and create joint work mechanisms for the mutual benefit for both communities. He indicated that the Sharjah-French Round table is just the beginning and there will be more meetings and business gatherings between both sides. "Dynamism and diversity are the two key words which describe the economic relations between the UAE and France, especially after the UAE became France's leading trade partner in the GCC in 2011; with the value of French exports to the UAE rising to more than 3.5 billion Euros in 2011, Al Sarkal clarified. The trade between the UAE and France reached AED 14.3 billion by the end of 2010, according to a report released by Abu Dhabi Chamber in 2010. The number of French companies based in the UAE stands at approximately 1,000 and is estimated to be increasing as trade between the two countries is growing on annual basis. France is the 8th largest supplier of the UAE with different commodities. There are about 11 Emirati companies investing in France in aviation, tourism, banks, finance, building ships, properties, developing and operating industrial zones, and food. The number of registered French nationals in the UAE is 14,500 and the total community is estimated at 20,000. Mr. Claude Valle, President of French Business Council (FBC), thanked Shurooq for its initiative of arranging this meeting as such meetings will work on future economic developments between both sides. He highlighted the deep relation between UAE in general and Sharjah to be specific and France. Mr. Elie Armaly, Director of Business Development at Shurooq, gave a presentation on promising future and investment potential in the emirate's various sectors. He said Sharjah International Airport witnesses the arrival of 6.63 passengers in 2011, making up a 10% share of the UAE's total passenger traffic. A total of 1.56 million people visited Sharjah in 2011, with Europeans comprising 42%, Asians 18%, 35% Arabs and 5% others. Sabri Hamade from Deloitte, a leading international consultancy firm, gave a presentation on an in-depth study conducted on Sharjah's investment sectors.He said the study offers a sector guide of investment opportunities in the emirate, as well as an overview of investment trends and prospects. It also offers comprehensive information on Sharjah's competitive advantages and regulatory environment, and highlights key sectors that offer significant investment potential to local and foreign investors. Mr. Ali Al Fathi, Senior Commercial Executive of Gulftainer Group,Leading international ports management and Logistics Company gave a presentation on the port industry and promising opportunities due to the major expansions and latest development on the UAE's ports. The presentation was followed by a short film about the Hamriya Free zone. Among speakers was also Khalid Al Huraimel, CEO of Bee'ah, the Sharjah-based waste and environment management company, gave a presentation on environmental initiatives and projects recently implemented in the emirate. Mr. Othman Al Mas, Director of Renewable Energy Department at Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA), gave a presentation on renewable and clean energy and the growing global trend in investment in the clean and renewable energy sector, due to its importance in reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment. In his presentation, Ms. Conny Boettger, Destination Development Manager at Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, spoke about the emirate's booming tourism industry and huge investment potential in the tourism sector. Mr. Binu G. Pisharadi, Marketing Manager of the Sharjah Health Authority, outlined the first master plan on revamping the emirate's health sector and investment opportunities available in this vital sector. The business gathering was also attended by Hussein Al Mahmoudi, Director General of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Humaid Al Qasimi, the representative of the Department of Economic Development in Sharjah, and Sheikha Nawar Al Qasimi from Sharjah Art Foundation. In a question-answer session, directors of government bodies and executives of private companies in Sharjah answered questions and queries raised by French participants.