At the last World Economic Forum in Davos, where global leaders of government and big business mingle in the Swiss Alps, France was woefully under-represented. Despite the fact that David Cameron of the U.K., Angela Merkel of Germany, and many other world leaders were present, Hollande—a Socialist president who must appeal to the unions—skipped it entirely.
Representing France instead was Fleur Pellerin, 41, the brilliant minister of Internet, small businesses, and innovations. Pellerin is unusual: born in Korea and abandoned at birth, she was adopted by French parents. Now she is trying to carve an energetic niche for New France, one that can encourage and use its talent to compete with the Brazilians, Chinese, Indians.
“Education is so vital,” she says, in perfect English.
But Pellerin is only a junior minister (at present, anyway—my prediction is that she will end up being the next Lagarde), so there is a limit to her influence, even if she has caught Hollande’s eye with her brashness and vitality. Also at Davos were great French visionaries such as Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Total, the oil giant, and Maurice Levy, the P.R. wizard behind Publicis. These men, however, are the rare French globalists. Rarer yet, they are fluent in English.