NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH RICHARD ATTIAS, PRODUCER OF THE NEW YORK FORUM
TOPIC: NEW YORK FORUM
TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2011, 11:00 A.M., EDT
NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 150 E. 52ND STREET, 5TH FLOOR
MODERATOR: So we’re happy to have Richard Attias here. He’s with the New York Forum, and I’ll just let him kind of kick it off with his comments and then we’ll follow up with questions. Just as a reminder, this is a roundtable format, but it is being recorded, and so as you ask your question, please state your name and organization for the transcript. We’ll be providing audio and transcript as well following the briefing for your notes. And if you have you any questions, you can contact me. I will get you in touch with staff afterwards. But until then, thank you so much for coming, sir.
MR. ATTIAS: Thank you very much for having me.
MODERATOR: And we really appreciate your time, and – please.
MR. ATTIAS: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. So thank you for taking the time to be here this morning. I don’t know how much you know about the New York Forum. I was here last year when we started that initiative. It was quite the challenging initiative, starting a new platform in the middle of the economic crisis. And I’m afraid we were quite right by saying a year ago that the economy was in – not in a very good mood. And I was convinced that we should put more priorities on trying to solve the major issues that the global economy was facing.
And one year after, I’m afraid again that we were quite visionary six months ago, when I decided with my team to build a program focusing on jobs and focusing on, I would say, the new Arab world and also focusing on hyper-transparency and the impact of the hyper-transparency and the social media.
Why? Why I think we were right? We were right because being in the private sector for the past 20 years and having the privilege to be all over the place, advising some private sector CEOs, some governments, on their communication strategy – I thought that it was a need to create a new platform where we can give a voice to the business leaders in the format which allow to exchange best practices and to work.
Many forums, as you know, exist. Every day, you can attend a different platform. What we are trying to achieve with the New York Forum, I would say that part of its DNA is first to be very focused on business issues, point number one.
Point number two is not to be more than 500 decision makers, because also based on my experience, I think that when you are more than few hundreds, it’s more a networking platform than working sessions.
Point number three, I wanted to have that – discussions, these discussions totally open to you, media. I know how big is the role you are playing. Everyone today is – think that he is or she could be a blogger or even a journalist. I have really a lot of respect for your profession, because I know how influencers you could be. And this is why I wanted the New York Forum from day one to be absolutely transparent, and I’m very happy to see that we will welcome more than 100 journalists who already are registered at the New York Forum, if my last numbers are correct. (Laughter.)
We are hosting the New York Forum 2011 on the 20 and 21st of June, which is next week, Monday and Tuesday. We closed the registration yesterday because I wanted to stick on my numbers, but we have more than 680 participants already. And we have, I would say, great sessions. We will give you a copy of the program. I decided this year to have two days divided in four half days.
The first half day, starting, I think, with the major issue, is jobs, jobs, jobs. This is not just a U.S. issue, as you know. The whole world is facing a big issue of unemployment. People are losing even their dignity in Spain, as they call themself, with thousands and thousands of people in the streets for the past few weeks. So this is not just an issue which is faced by the Arab countries or the North African. Even in the Western world, very educated people, 40 percent of the new graduated people in Spain are not finding a job.
And I think we have to address that issue, and we cannot just expect miracle solutions from the administrations. The private sector has to take its responsibilities and this is why the New York Forum is a voice to the business leaders. And as a former engineer – in fact, you are always an engineer in your life, a civil engineer – I’m quite obsessed by when you have an issue, you need to sit around the table and you don’t leave the room before you find the solution.
I’m not expecting to find the solutions in – next week, but at least to come with a series of proposals which could be experimented. My message to the audience will be: We should experiment. We will never know if it works or not before we try. So I think we should experiment and we should experiment with a nonpartisan approach, because also, being in United States for now more than three years, I’m afraid that the country also is not very effective because of this bipartisan situation, who you know better than me. And I think it is time to all look in the same direction and to try different solutions.
So this is why we are very proud, by the way, that the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness will host a session with few members, including Valarie Jarrett, the special advisor to President Obama, and including some top CEOs like Steve Case, Robert Wolf from UBS, and the CEO of Comcast, et cetera. So we’ll see what will be discussed during this first half the morning, and I expect, of course, questions from the floor, because, as you know, the format of the New York Forum is very, very interactive.
QUESTION: Is talking to press, this --
MR. ATTIAS: Of course, absolutely. All the plenary sessions are open to you. This year, we made the decision that everything will be also live-streamed. So as I told you, I want the forum to be hyper-transparent. (Laughter.) Please interrupt me anytime. I’m not supposed to deliver any speech. I’m just trying to inform you and then to answer to your question.
QUESTION: Will the press be inside the room or outside? Because at the --
MR. ATTIAS: Correct, inside the room.
QUESTION: -- World Economic Forum, they put us outside.
MR. ATTIAS: No, but you will be inside the room. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible) it’s quite – you need to register, the press?
MR. ATTIAS: Of course you need to register before, and Mary and her team can give you all the detail if it’s not already done.
I – then we will have also some very important discussions about emerging markets. This year, we are very pleased to have a special session about China. I am convinced that there is a Chinese business model, and we need to understand what is the Chinese business model and how can we take some best practices from the Chinese business model. I don’t think we should be scared by China. I went to China first time 30 years ago, and I think there are very interesting experiences which are made in China in all areas, including in green technology. I was there months ago, invited by some provinces, and I have to say that when you go to cities like Chengdu, 12 million inhabitants, and you see that 70 percent of the motorbike are, in fact, electric, you understand that in some areas, they are already far ahead us.
So we have a session with – about China, with great CEOs from China. One of our sponsor mentors is the Chinese company Lenovo. We will have a special session about Latin America, which is a continent which is booming with countries like Colombia, like Chile, Peru, so I want to hear also what these country are doing, economically speaking.
And last but not least, we all know how the impact of what started in Tunisia beginning of January and what you were calling the domino effect has now a huge economic impact. And people has to understand, especially in the U.S. or in other countries, why their government has or not to support financially these new democracies. As you know, Tunisia is asking for billions of dollars on health, Egypt the same, and you know the situation is not, unfortunately, crystal clear in Jordan, in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia has made some major announcements and measures to address the issue of unemployment also by taking very strict measures. The last one is that the expat cannot work more than six years in the kingdom, and there are some even 22 or 23 areas, industries where if you are a Saudi company, you cannot hire any more – an expat. So this is also something that I would like to address, is to have a better understanding about what is happening in this part of the world, which I know quite well, and I will personally moderate that session with the minister of economy and finance from – of Tunisia. I wanted to give a voice to the business sector in Egypt so we have an important CEO, the former minister of economic finance and planning and chief royal court of Jordan, the head of the stock exchange of Casablanca in Morocco, and also a top executive from the Saudi authority – investment authority. So I think we’ll have a very good representation of decision makers from the whole region, to have a dialogue with them.
Then we have also many sessions about innovation. I think – and I think I’m not the only one – because this was the keyword which came from last year in New York Forum. I would say that’s very – it was not one single session last year where people were not mentioning innovation, innovation, like if it was the magic word to try to find solutions. Yes, innovation is key.
I’m still convinced that United States of America is one of the most creative country in the world. When you look at what was produced, invented in the past 10 years, we have to say that it’s an amazing reservoir of talent, of innovation, from the iPad to solar energy system to amazing drugs. We should not forget that America is – and I can say that as being non-American – that the country is still amazing, huge resources. But we need – and we know that even in Africa, in Europe, in China, in India, innovation is key of creating jobs and bringing also new talents to new industries. The question is how do we help to finance and to support, financially, innovation. And this is a key issue that I would like to address, and to leave the room with ideas and with solutions.
And also, we’ll address one important issue, which, again, was not at all in my personal agenda, but it would be very appropriate by this style, but it’s – the gender factor and women at work. So it would be a session or so about how can we help women, female, to have access to high responsibilities in corporation, because I think also that this could help on making more and more progress in the working environment.
So these are, I would say, few of the highlights of the program 2011, and I would be more than happy to answer to any question. The goal of the New York Forum is to leave, after two days of discussions, with a wide book of proposals which will be presented to the G-20, which, thanks to God this year, is not three days after our forum, but it’s four months after our forum in November. We have already established contact with President Sarkozy team to – who is leading the G-8 and the G-20, as you know. So they are expecting our conclusions, our proposals, and I will know in a few hours who from the French Government is coming, because, as you know, French now is facing some last-minute change potentially in the government with Minister Lagarde being a candidate now to the IMF. So I think by the next few days, will – probably some changes in the French Government, so this is why I think Christine Lagarde, who was, by the way, last year one of our keynote speaker at the closing session, she will definitely not be able to come back this year, so we’ll see who will be there.
So I’m at your disposal to answer to any question, and to complete what I was saying.
QUESTION: I will have a question regarding the Middle East. I’m interested by the Middle East.
MODERATOR: Can you please state your name?
QUESTION: My name is Sylviane Zehil, bureau chief of L’Orient le Jour, cover New York and the United Nations for more than 20 years.
And my question here is: I see that you’ll tackle the issue of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, and Arabia Saudia – Saudi Arabia, but you didn’t tackle the subject of Bahrain – real Bahrain and Yemen and Syria and Lebanon. Are these countries – are – will be put aside during your – the New York Forum or you’ll --
MR. ATTIAS: Not at all. The only – first of all, you cannot address all the issues of all the countries in one hour. I’m sure that question will be raised, but you cannot have a panel with 12 people. And as I told you, unfortunately, we are living in a domino effect, and the – you can also add to your list Libya.
MR. ATTIAS: And I can add to your list other countries because it’s a huge revolution happening today in this part of the world. I would say that even this part of the world deserves, by itself, a special forum, to be honest, at least to understand what is happening in each country, because each country is a different case. Morocco; what is happening in Morocco with the new constitution, with the king who made a very courageous decision, has nothing to do with what is happening next door in Tunisia, which has nothing to do with what happened in Egypt, based on my personal view, which has nothing to do with what is happening in Libya, et cetera. There are some coincidence, but also I think it’s the end of a generation in many countries for different reason.
So we tried to start by addressing, I would say, the first countries who started the process of changing the model – Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, who was following, and last but not least, Morocco, because these were really the first countries. So I’m trying at least to put on stage the country which started the process. And I don’t want the New York Forum to be a political forum, and it will never be a political forum. I want to address the issue of this country, who I think are already in the second stage of their new era. And I want to address the issue of how this country will survive economically. And I want to help people in the room, thanks to you also, about why America or why Europe should or not help financially, economically, these countries to survive. Because the impact is huge about immigration, about jobs, about youth, about talents, so I will try to orient that discussion with an economic aspect and not at all a political aspect.
For me, I don’t want to spend time on why or not Ben Ali or Mubarak left the regime. This is not my purpose and this is not at all the topic of the New York Forum. My question is how can we help today Tunisian young entrepreneurs, Egyptians, to really have coming back and to find more dignity, and how can we integrate them in the global world, in the global economic world.
I was asked a question by one of your colleagues from Fox two weeks ago, at Fox Business News, why we should help financially these countries when we have so many issues already in our country. So this has to be understood, because I think the why is a non-choice, and – but we need to explain why it’s a non-choice with very rational explanations.
QUESTION: Sir, you also mentioned about some proposal to the G-20 meeting in France later this year. So will there be some session for dropping this proposal? Or what kind of details of the proposal, what kind of perspectives in that proposal you are going to --
MR. ATTIAS: In each station, we have summary writers with – the moderators who are very great professional. Some of them are your colleagues from the New York Times, from AP, from CNBC. So they are – one of the mission is not just to moderate decision, but to help us to summarize the key proposals, the key ideas very concrete, which will – came from the discussion. And then we will summarize all this, I would say, discussions. I hope that they will be able by Tuesday, the second day afternoon, we have a press briefing to share with you some of these proposals. And definitely, we will try to present or to summarize them at the closing station. So the process is in place.
QUESTION: Just in addition to that – Matthew Murphy from The Age in Australia – will there be a communiqué released at the end of that second day?
MR. ATTIAS: Absolutely. Last year, we sent a communiqué and we even published what we called the New York Declaration, which was summarizing all the ideas, including, last year, how to finance innovation and how to create some banks of innovation. But I hope that this year we’ll be a little bit more heard. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: To come back to the innovation, will you invite Steve Jobs or (inaudible)?
MR. ATTIAS: We tried to invite Steve Jobs, which is one of my heroes. But unfortunately, as you know, he cannot make it for personal reasons. And – but we have other young talents, innovators, entrepreneurs from different industries. We have invited some – even founders from different social media networks, because one of the goals of the New York Forum is to create the community which what I will call the traditional old guard, the decision makers, and the young entrepreneurs from all of the countries.
And thanks you, media, more in emerging markets. In countries in Africa, in Asia, people will know about the New York Forum. Better it is for us the way to have access to this young talent and the next generation, because as you know, it’s quite difficult to find who are the next leaders in Australia. It’s quite a mission impossible to get their names – (laughter) – except if – thanks to a nice article that you will write, they will hear about us and they will contact us, and this is how we invite them and this is how we integrate them, the same in Germany. Today, of course you will hear about the Dutch bank CEO, about Mercedes, about BMW, but it’s quite difficult to really know except if you live 24/7 in Germany, who are the members of the next generation of leaders in the German economy who are not only in the internet business, because when you are in the internet business it’s so public everybody knows about you. But I would like to know who are the leaders in the solar energy, for example, or the clean energy where Germany is one of the leading countries.
QUESTION: I was a little late. I don’t know if you’ve addressed something.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) the transcript (inaudible).
QUESTION: Okay. David Michaels, bureau chief for MercoPress news agency, the English language (inaudible). Who do you have on your panel addressing the South American (inaudible)?
MR. ATTIAS: Oh, we have Alejandro Ramirez (ph) from (inaudible) in Mexico, the CEO of (inaudible). We have Felipe Hans (ph) with – the president of (inaudible) Investment of Brazil. We have Frederico Respetro( ph) who is a CEO of (inaudible) Publica de Medellin in Colombia. We have Karl Sovants (ph), who is the executive director of Valley Colombia Center on Sustainable International Investment from Colombia. And we have Luis Alberto Moreno, who you know as the president of Inter-American Development Bank.
QUESTION: He’s also (inaudible) Colombia.
MR. ATTIAS: Of course. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Isolde Tenenbom with German paper Die Zeit. What was the result from last year’s economic – New York Forum? What impact did it have? And secondly, what would be your wish from the outcome, ideal outcome, from this year’s forum?
MR. ATTIAS: It’s a very important question. Thank you. I would say that last year, we made something which was quite mission impossible happening. We created a new platform. My first goal was to build a new community, and we did that in less than four months. Everybody thought that it was mission impossible and we would never be happy – able to make it. And we were heard by many top executives. So the first achievement of last year was for me to have great people coming and participating during two days about the discussion, people like Carlos Lee (ph), who never attend any conference, and when he attend he spend only one hour, he spent two days; with people like Rupert Murdoch, Jerry Spier (ph), et cetera, who really were involved deep discussion. This was a first achievement for me, is to have these people sharing their thoughts and being committed during two days on trying to find solutions.
Last year, I would say that the global economy was really full of uncertainty, which is still the case today, so nobody was really reacting. People were quite lost, to be honest. They didn’t know exactly what should be the priority and what should we tackle first. This is why it was a consensus of innovation. We should invest in innovation. We should invest in innovation. This was the key message in all sessions, I would say.
And the second message, decision makers didn’t want to create too much pessimism and they say, no, let’s be optimists. So last year, people were trying to be very optimist, to say okay, by the beginning of 2011, it will be a better world. So we sent a message on – about innovation, and I don’t think we were heard. And there is my personal explanation, which has nothing to do with the New York Forum. I think many leaders thought that it was a cycle and that the crisis started 2008 and many, many experts thought that by 2011, we’ll have a better world. Tunisia in January, Egypt two weeks after, tsunami in Japan three week after – I’m just starting from January 1st – nuclear catastrophe. The euro, the Greece Island, Portugal, and I can continue the list of terrible events, which are part, definitely, of our new, I would say, model. I don’t think this is a crisis. I think we should be ready to live now in an era of consistency and productivity.
And so the first achievement of what I expect from the New York Forum is to have all the business leaders realizing that we’re not living anymore in very long cycles of prosperity and a short cycle of crisis. Now we live in a time where we have a crisis every week or we could have a crisis every week, so we should change the mind and we should definitely change the way we manage businesses. I think this is a very important message and achievement if people realize and if we have a consensus from the private and the public sector that today we have to change the way we manage cooperation, the way we make decisions, the way we react more quickly than it was done in the past. This will be already the first achievement.
The second achievement is I would like, about jobs, spending the whole morning about jobs, to have a consensus of what should be the four or five actions that we need to implement and to experiment. I have personally some ideas, but I’m not here to influence the debates. But definitely, I think we are not – when I mean we, it’s a global group, policymakers, private sector, all the different components of the society has to take some responsibilities and has to implement, experiment solutions. So definitely – and this would not be done without public-private partnerships. So I will definitely would like to leave with a roadmap.
When you sit around the table talking back to the Middle East, each time we have a meeting about the peace process, we leave with a roadmap and say, okay, this is what we should do. And unfortunately, it’s not often done. I hope that our – at our level, we will be able to influence. And this is why I created the New York Forum Institute, which is a not-for-profit foundation, because I know that great ideas come from great forums, but after if you don’t have a follow-up process, nothing is happening. So I will tackle the companies who will make some proposals and the policymakers to try to be sure that between two annual forums, things will be at least implement or tried, and if not, with your help, by the way, I want to understand why we didn’t.
I will take a very practical example. A year ago, great U.S. American politicians said we should invest in infrastructure and this will create jobs. I am absolutely convinced, as a civil engineer, that this country deserves and needs a lot of investment in infrastructures. Some airports, some roads, looks like middle age. When you go to some even Arab countries, they are much more equipped than it is the case the United States. So definitely, I think this decision has to be made, but has to be implemented. The minute you will really decide to invest some funds on infrastructures and to make some different states of the United States to come to the level of what it should be, this will create jobs. And it’s not artificial. It’s not just, I would say, a stimulus. It’s really a need of the country. So I think the second thing to achieve is definitely to come with different ideas and solutions.
And third, I would be happy to help one region which I think has a huge influence on our day-to-day business, all of us, which is North Africa and Middle East, et cetera, which is quite in trouble. A lot of impact. Everything could happen from that region if it’s not stabilized, from the price of the oil to immigration to some worse. Look what happened in Libya. Everybody thought that Libya will be solved in one week. Oh, it’s easy. I’m afraid that the Libya case will take more and more and more weeks with again a new war, with again more and more expenses on that area.
So definitely, I think it’s important to close some files. I think we should try already to close, if I may, the file of Tunisia, the file of other countries and to say yes or no – private sector, should we help, should we invest, what is your – our role, because even if the G-8 or the G-20 or the World Bank or the IMF or the EBRD Bank is putting some money to help these countries. If the private sector, if experts, are not going there and helping to implement to change new industries, nothing can be really happening. So this is what we would try to achieve at least for this year. We don’t want to be too ambitious. We need to be – we want to be realists and we want to have the business community more committed to find solutions. This is really the first goal of the New York Forum, is to have commitments from the New York – from the business community.
QUESTION: Yes. I’m de Gasquet from Les Echos, French newspaper. On the jobs issue, you said you want focus particularly on the U.S. market. Does it mean you think the so-called jobless recovery is a universal problem and you can have some universal solutions, because maybe there are still big differences between Europe and –
MR. ATTIAS: You’re absolutely right. I think we should learn and hear from Europe and from France what was done when the unemployment level was so high. We tried many things, in fact, as you know – stimulus, tax cuts, companies who were hiring unemployment people were not being taxed for two years, et cetera, et cetera. Some measures were working; some measures were not working. So at least, I think, we want to hear from the rest of the world what was done and to see how we can definitely implement that or not in the United States.
Why U.S. first? Because I think that the world needs a strong American economy. Whatever is happening, we cannot have the first economic power in trouble or weak, so we need a strong American economy. Everybody needs that. So let’s start first by trying to see how we can find solutions or suggest solutions to the decision makers.
And also, I hope that the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness will share with you, media, because you are an amazing relay, with people who are jobless today because many people do not know also what are the measures and what are some existing help that they can get. They have no idea, which is a huge paradox because, in the world of hyper-communication technology where what is happening in Far East is known one second after in New York. The huge paradox – we made a survey a few days ago with my colleague, Josh, and we asked some questions to people who were jobless who were making the line to the unemployment office. And what they told us is we are discovering that we have some – we could have access to some help, to some – they don’t even know what the government has put in place.
So if a New York Forum is – could be a platform which would also help to build a better communication, a bridge between the public and the private sector, this would be also another achievement. And this was, by the way, one of the components of the DNA of the New York Forum last year. I wanted the New York Forum to be a real bridge between the public and the private sector, but owned by the private sector.
QUESTION: Hi, Richard. You just mentioned –
MODERATOR: Please state your name and organization.
QUESTION: I’m Chuanshi with China’s Xinhua News Agency. And you just mentioned that the emerging Chinese market will be maybe a head topic on this forum, and I suppose that you must marry – maybe follow the Chinese economic development. And so as the Chinese economy has developed very quickly, and I think maybe some problem maybe come up with it and – such as the inflation pressure, and you know according to latest data that the CPI in May in China just raised to a 34-month new high. And also, China yesterday just announced to raise a deposit reserve ratio for the sixth time in this year. So what do you judge that maybe the inflation pressure in China and maybe an impact to the world economy?
MR. ATTIAS: One of the goal of the New York Forum is to have a better understanding about China. You perfectly right by mentioning that there are some very good things in China but there are also some risks, very huge risks. And again, we need to understand these risks, not to be surprised if in six months from now we discover a new bubble which explodes, which would have also a huge impact, because China economy is also very, very big and very powerful. So I think it’s important to understand. People do not really understand what is really happening in China.
When I mean people, I am not talking about the great minds who are already established good connections with China, investing in China, but we have a lot of cliché. And by bringing Chinese CEOs, we have a delegation of how many, Josh, 20 people from China? Twenty-six, which is quite unique to have 26 decision makers from China coming and trying to explain what is happening in that country, what is their vision, who have a wish to also establish business relationship and to take best practices in different areas – education, healthcare, infrastructures, of course finance, and last but not least art and culture, which is why we have even made the decision that the cultural evening of the New York Forum, we have established a tradition last year. We are trying, after two days of talking business, to have one evening about culture. So Monday evening, the cultural evening, is about China, with Chinese talent, with Chinese food, and also to try to have a better understanding about different components of the culture and heritage of China.
So definitely, you are absolutely right. I am not saying that the Chinese business model is the ideal one, but I think it should be understood. And we should also keep some cliché, including the fact that in China, there is no at all respect anymore of intellectual property. I know that this is not true. I know it’s a big battle, but I’m not sure that many people know that there is in China now, in each province, a bureau in charge of intellectual property. And this has to be addressed and to see how you can protect also your patent, and to establish better relationship between China and the Western world. But also we need to understand how work the financial industry of China and how work the manufacturing industry in China, and also what are the risks. What a CEO should have today is, first, to have as much information as possible to be able, like a pilot in the plane, to make decision in real time. We live in real time.
So I think information is power, and what is really helping, and one of the first goals at what this New York Forum, I think, will be one of his great achievements is once a year at least to bring more and more information to these CEOs. And this is why I was very happy last year to see that even during the coffee breaks – apart the coffee breaks, my corridors were empty because people were really working in the rooms. And this is what we will try to achieve again this year by having very interactive sessions with a lot of content, content, content. Everything is about content. And we have few mentors who are Ernst and Young, the Boston Consulting Group, The New York Times, Lenovo, Humana. And these companies are not just writing a check. This is not the deal I have with them. Their people, their executives, are very involved with us from day one to build the program and to provide some contacts.
QUESTION: You mentioned clean energy technology and innovation and jobs. What role, do you see the private sector having – I know you don’t want to get political, but from my experience, business is always saying we want certainty, we want clean – clear kind of policy directives. Therefore, what role do you see the private sector playing in terms of shifting the energy mix without, I guess, clear policy directives from governments?
MR. ATTIAS: Let me first answer to your question which was the role and the duties of the private sector. I think we have roles and duties, and I think we should not just ask and expect things from the Administration. We should also be able to say, okay, if you do that, this is a commitment. Everything is about commitment. It should be a win-win deal. The huge paradox is – let’s take my own example – I started a company from scratch two years ago in New York. I created 22 jobs, which is more than what I created for – in during probably five years inside the publicist group where I was part of it, which is a 38,000 permanent employee company for exactly the same business. Why? Because when you are an entrepreneur you take risks. You are audacious. You are not looking every day on the stock and the value of your stock on the market. Okay? You manage by instinct, you mange by conviction, you manage by passion.
And if today we are helped by the government, by okay, we cut some taxes for one year, two years if you recruit A, B, C, D, definitely I would hire more people because I would be able to take more risks, and I am not the only one. If you look at some survey, the ratio of entrepreneurship, and job which were created by entrepreneurs even in the United States, is at least, I think, in 20 years it went from 100 to 180, so which is 80 percent more, and when the global corporation were just something between 100 and 110 or 115, the ratio.
So definitely I think we have duties, we have roles, and we need to take these duties and roles. And also it’s not a coincidence my colleague is here. He can tell. As an entrepreneur, I was not taking salary for two years or very little salary because I want to put more money on – to make my company to survive. So I don’t think I would be very proper if I mention the fact that I consider that some – we have to take care of the level of salaries. I know this was a big debate worldwide with bonuses, et cetera. But I think this discussion has to be addressed one day. It’s also part of the mix of the discussion.
Back to your question on clean energy, the mix of energy, et cetera, I think we need to be realistic. Every day, we have hundreds, thousands, millions of people who are born on this planet. We are talking about having more people, we are all hoping of more growth, we are all hoping about creating more companies, more industries. What is the first consequence? You consume more energy. So we should stop to dream. We are, all of us, everyday, we need more and more energy.
So definitely the question is now not how to save energy; it is what is good mix of energy, and we need also to be realistic. So this is definitely an issue – but we want to address – but I will not address it at the New York Forum because by itself, it’s a forum. And I will announce very soon that I’m creating a new initiative to put around the table all the players from the energy world, which I hope will be by the end of this year. Before Durban, I will have the equivalent of the New York Forum but focusing on energies with a big E. And I have already established contact with great energy players, with policymakers, with the G-20 people, because I think this is a key topic which has to be addressed as another one, which is food security.
QUESTION: It will be in New York, too?
MR. ATTIAS: The food security will not be in New York, the energy will not be in New York because we could not do everything in New York, even if I am a great lover of New York. But I think energy will be in Europe, and food security will be in Africa.
MR. ATTIAS: By the end of this year.
QUESTION: Mr. Attias.
MR. ATTIAS: Yes.
QUESTION: Yu Wong, Caijing. Sorry for not presenting myself. (Inaudible) Magazine, which business economics magazine from China. And what your mission as part of the real responsibility of New York Forum is more like epistemology. It’s just like whether it is economic circle or what we could do as a human being in this circle, these kind of things. So my question is: You are also producer of World Economic Forum –
MR. ATTIAS: I was.
QUESTION: Yes. Right. Was. One of the initiative of the Dubai. So how do you find the dynamics of New York as a leader of international economics or as a provider of the thinking? So how do you find –
MR. ATTIAS: I think the DNA of New York is unique. Definitely, I made the decision to create something in New York. It is your question, by the way, why New York?
MR. ATTIAS: Okay. I have understood well. Point number one, because I think New York is not just a great city of United States. It’s definitely one of the capital of the world. This is no question. The dynamics of New York, the energy of New York, the resilience of New York is unique. I was very impressed after September 11th – I was in New York on September 11, and I had to move the Davos Forum in three months from Davos with an end to New York because we produced the Davos Forum 2002 in January in New York by solidarity with the New Yorkers. And it was at the Waldorf Astoria.
So during these three months of preparation, I was fascinated by the resilience, as I said, by the commitment of the New Yorkers, from a taxi driver to a top CEO to a police crewmember. So I always told to myself New York deserved to have its own platform where once a year different components of the business community will come and will not just go to meetings. They will stop, they will work together. So this is what we want to achieve.
And also the second reason is when everybody was looking east, everybody was attracted by the charms of China, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, New Delhi, I say no. America still deserves attention. And I can say that as a non-American because, as I said, America is for me the largest reservoir of creativity, of talent, of innovation, and I am sure that this country will come back very soon. It take times, we cannot do miracles, but I’m sure that America has still a great future, and we need to do something in New York. This was my bet, and this is my conviction, especially on the business because this is a place where the economy – the crisis started. So I think the solution has to be found here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m from the Turkish Journal, and I wanted to ask you about any participating companies from Turkey or any people you know who are Turkish, Turkish Americans, business chambers, are they significantly participating?
MR. ATTIAS: It’s a very good question, and thank you for raising my point. Unfortunately not. We tried. As you know, your country was having an important election in the past few days, so many – few people were able to make commitments to come. But this is definitely a target for me for next year, because I am one of the person who think that the Turkish business model is a very interesting one. It has to be absolutely shared – presented. And I know that many North African and Arab countries who are now facing, I would say, a new era of change are looking very, very highly on the way to import the Turkish model, which seems to be quite successful. Even the inflation is going higher and higher, but at the country is doing well. So I hope that, thanks to you, we’ll have access to also this community and to see how we can increase the Turkish participation next year. This year we were happy to have more Chinese, more Latin American people, people from Africa, we have even people coming from Nigeria, from Tunisia, from Senegal, from Ivory Coast. So Turkish definitely is missing.
QUESTION: You are a very ambitious person. A Frenchman comes here three years ago and starts –
MR. ATTIAS: A Moroccan guy.
MR. ATTIAS: I was born in Morocco, and I am still carrying my Moroccan citizenship, even if I’m French-educated. So even coming from a smaller country. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. It was a very strong ambition trying mostly solve the problems of the world. What is your secret? What do you bring the most powerful men, women, countries together? What –
MR. ATTIAS: My passion. This is my (inaudible). When President Clinton and his team asked me five years ago – we met in Davos, and by pure coincidence, the people of President Clinton’s team told me, oh, if you come one day to New York, let us know. I came to New York five years ago, six years ago, and we met. And we – I was supposed to ask you one question – what can we do at the Clinton Foundation to help more? And I came with the idea of creating the Global Clinton Initiative because I do not know if you know, but I am a cofounder of the Global Clinton Initiative. And the business model was quite different because it was about commitment from the private sector. Of course, Bill Clinton is more than a former president; he’s an icon. So carrying what he’s carrying with the Global Clinton Initiative made, thanks to his passion, thanks to his name, thanks to his connection, is making, with the Global Clinton Initiative, amazing achievements raising every year billions of dollars, billions of dollars, which are helping to address some issues in healthcare, education, Haiti, et cetera.
So I think I’m taking this example because for me it’s like a model of what could be done. And if at my very small level I can implement the model, having commitment from the business community just to come with solutions – we’re not trying to help the world. To help the world – definitely we are talking about climate change, education, healthcare – these are very important and global issues. But if, thanks to my expertise of 20 years, working for 20 years for governments, for top corporations – I produced in my life more than 3,000 events, which means that I was dealing with more than 2,000 CEOs in the world. And when you prepare an event for them, you are very close to them, very – you build a very intimate relationship, because when you spend a weekend (inaudible) with a CEO on his messages, on his behavior, you build a very strong and trustful relationship.
So now I want to give back, and the only way to give back is to bring these people together, knowing exactly what they – what also are their ambitions, their goals, and to help them to build something which could be sustainable. I am convinced that we can fix some issues, definitely, by having more people working together, and not for eternity, just for small part.
This job issue, I think, should be tackled by having a special Camp David, I would say, forum for two, three full days and leaving the room with – putting around the table private sector, the representative of the unions, labor, et cetera to say okay, who is taking what as responsibilities and let’s experiment and let’s see if we have a real action plan. I’m very basic, so this is what is motivate me.
And definitely I build a new entity today which is, thanks to God, my own company, Richard Attias and Associates, and what I’m trying to do is to implement ideas on four, five key topics which talk to me. Definitely business, because I was part of the business community for more than 20 years, so this is why I created the New York Forum. Social issues are, for me, very important. I think we should help the youth. This is why I created the Nobel Laureates Conference, which is now happening every year, putting together Nobel laureates with CEOs and some political leaders and talking about education, about healthcare, and about social issues.
The third one is education. I have created two years ago a platform on education in Bahrain. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen this year for the reason we know, but it will happen next year, putting together, building a community of educators. And it’s a forum not just where people come and do great statements, education is important, education is important. We all that education is important. The question is what do we do to bring what was done in Norway, Sweden, or Denmark, where it’s amazing results, and how can we implement or not that or adapt in Nigeria, in Senegal, or even in India.
I discovered, thanks to that forum, that India today needs one million teachers. One million teachers today, India needs one million teachers. So let’s sit around the table and see how we can help India. One way perhaps will be to export for few years teachers who are jobless in some other countries, speaking English, and to see how we can build a win-win situation with India, et cetera, et cetera. So this is education.
And last but not least, as I told you a little bit before, I announce it, I want to focus on energy equation and food security, because I think this is a very, very major issue, major issue.
QUESTION: But does it mean you see the New York Forum as competing with the others at a certain stage or --
MR. ATTIAS: No. Frankly speaking, people are always asking me that question because I spent 15 years of producing Davos and all the World Economic Forum. But I think, first of all, Davos is a forum with 5,000 people, as you know, and many speakers are politicians. You in the media, when you now speak about Davos, it’s a fact. You speak more about the fact that Putin or the premier of China or President Sarkozy or I don't know who else delivered a speech. You do not really speak about what was the real deep discussion on business issues. Why? Because Davos, when you look at the agenda of Davos, is about politics, it’s about social issues, it’s about everything, 322 sessions. But it’s, before everything, the major platform for networking. Seventy percent of the things which are happening in Davos are happening in the corridors of the hotels of Davos, as you know.
So this is not my ambition. This is why, for me, the New York Forum is not at all a competition to Davos. It’s something much more focused on contact, much more focused on sharing best practices, much more focused on solutions, solutions, solutions. And I will continue to fight to build this New York Forum until we will be really a laboratory, a laboratory of ideas, which could be implemented.
QUESTION: So it meets once a year?
MR. ATTIAS: For now, it’s once a year. Yes, definitely. We started, and it’s always the first day or the summer or the day before the summer which is 20 and 21st of June, except when it’s coming during a weekend, so if any, we adjust.
QUESTION: What about the gender issue? You didn’t (inaudible) --
MR. ATTIAS: The gender issue – yes. It will be a session, by the way, which will be co-hosted by my wife, which has her own foundation, the Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women. And this year she has decided to host the session, so she came and she proposed that, so it’s a – you are we most welcome, because it’s definitely a real issue today in the – so women and business. And she has a session with, I think, other CEOs. And the idea of her session is definitely to see how we can help women all over the world to, first, have access to high responsibilities, and two, how can we help women to come back more easily after they deliver the baby or after they took one year of absence, in one word to make their life more easy in the business world.
So she will have a session with – I think it’s one of the top executives from Ernest & Young. Sorry. I think it’s on day one. Definitely it’s on day one. It’s – yeah. Yes, absolutely. Sorry. With Beth Brooke, from Ernest & Young, with Luis Alberto Moreno, who has many things to say about that, with a very young talented lady who was working in Global Institution and now has created her own private equity firm. And the session is moderated by a top executive from the media industry, which is the editor-in-chief of Glamour Magazine, but also a real entrepreneur.
So Cecilia – I don't want to talk on her behalf, but she’s convinced that more women will have access to high responsibility and better the world with it. So I will leave her to try to demonstrate that. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: We have time for two more questions.
QUESTION: Will it be only in English?
MR. ATTIAS: No. This year the Forum will be translated in Chinese. So – and some session, a few session, will be also translated in French, because we have some speakers who only speaks French, including the session about the Arab world.
QUESTION: Are you still involved in the Global Initiative?
MR. ATTIAS: No. No. I am not anymore involved because I have to focus on my own business now and even am lacking time, so not anymore. I’m attending, but not any more really involved.
QUESTION: Do you know if Mr. Carlos Ghosn will be attending?
MR. ATTIAS: No. Unfortunately, he cannot make it. He was considering it till the very last minute, and I think he has other priorities now, given that also we definitely wanted to have him talking about the new business model of the automotive industry, but he’s already trying to commit himself on next year.
Thank you very much for your attention.
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