France’s beleaguered President Jacques Chirac opened the 46th Paris Air Show here at Le Bourget yesterday. While his visit is intended primarily to cheerlead the country’s own aerospace and defense industry, he has lately proved to be a best friend to foreign exhibitors, too.
By contriving to lose the May 29 referendum on the European Constitution in such humiliating circumstances, Chirac triggered a 6-percent collapse in the euro’s value on international currency markets–handing a welcome discount on show costs to Le Bourget exhibitors–and especially those from the U.S. Paris Air Show organizers must be thrilled, having themselves pledged to reduce costs for exhibitors.
Chirac started his visit at Arianespace before advancing to unveil the pan-European Neuron unmanned combat air vehicle project. He then entered the nearby exhibition hall to visit Dassault Aviation, Safran (a merger of Snecma and Sagem), EADS and Airbus. The regulation two minutes’ maximum for each stand continued with a look at Italy’s Finmeccanica and Germany’s aerospace sector before visiting CFM International and General Electric. At the China stand, he signed the visitors’ book before popping in to a handful of Safran subsidiaries and Gifas’ small and medium-size firms. Returning outside with his followers, he dropped into the French defense ministry building, Sagem Defense and Security, finishing his rounds with Thales.
Le Bourget 2005 is Chirac’s sixth show in a row as French president–equaling President François Mitterrand’s record between 1981 and 1993. But unless he and his hastily reshuffled government can reverse the political crisis they have triggered, it could well be his last. The next presidential election takes place in spring 2007, just before the next Paris Air Show.