05-04 French Follies

by Ernest Bywater

Tags: Drama, Politics, Violence, War, Military, Workplace, Extra Sensory Perception, Young Adult, Vignettes,

Desc: Action/Adventure Story: In November 2009, Gerry has to visit Europe to resolve some political issues, and has the bad luck to visit a school when some terrorists wish to use it for their purposes. Badly outnumbered, his security team do their duty. Sometimes, the best a warrior can do is to die hard, to help his friends who will arrive later. From the Clan Amir Book - The Falcon in Flight.

In November, 2009 Gerry travels to Europe on behalf of the Berant King. He's there as a Special Envoy to resolve some trade issues with the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. He'll also be sorting out some matters for his own and clan businesses in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Belgium. Travelling with him is a senior member of the Berant Department of Trade, Pierre de Darnet. His ancestors include the last two French governors of Berant from the time when it was a French colony. It's hoped his French heritage and government links will help alleviate some of the strong animosity the French bureaucrats still feel about being kicked out of Berant sixty years ago.

Berant has good arrangements with the European Union, but also some minor issues with the three individual governments mentioned. The personal business items are to select local senior executives from several candidates, and to realign activities with new trade agreements. The local concerns are about the effect Berant import goods will have on local businesses. The biggest actual trade problems are with the United Kingdom, so Gerry and Pierre start there, and the worst political problems are with France, so they'll finish the trip there to have more time to deal with the concerns of the touchy French bureaucracy.

A Special Envoy is expected to sit down and discuss issues with the senior politicians and bureaucrats of the government being visited, but that's not how things are being done this time. The relevant Berant Ambassadors will still be responsible for the negotiations, the signing of all documents, and public relations. Gerry and Pierre are there to evaluate the situation and to amend Berant policy if they need to; something the ambassadors don't have the authority to do, but Gerry does. Gerry and Pierre spend their time speaking to local businessmen and lower level bureaucrats instead of senior ones.

United Kingdom

The problems in the UK are due to the direct competition by two Berant manufacturers of technical equipment and how it'll impact on local businesses. Like France and Germany the UK stands to lose a lot of jobs through the loss of local and export trade because they currently supply much of Europe with the same high technology goods. The Berant goods are higher quality and a much lower price, despite being imported. This is due to better design and quality control during the manufacture resulting in lower wastage and costs.

The argument being made by the UK government is the same as those of the French and Germany governments on concerns for the local business operations. Investigations show the local businesses in all three are very inefficient, are using out of date manufacturing systems, and are over staffed. The governments are more concerned with the overall net effect on their Balance of Trade figures and the loss of jobs. The ambassadors haven't been able to get anywhere with these issues.

One lucky aspect is the Berant companies concerned are owned by Gerry, any loss in potential revenue for them will affect his pocket. He won't be abused by others if he changes policy that reduces the export income. The bulk of the benefit of the new trade agreement with the European Union will be in other industries and companies, thus not getting the trade from these two companies won't have any real effect on Berant; it'll just mean the two companies won't be spending any money on expansion in Berant.

After a week's investigations and discussions Gerry proposes a deal for the UK government. Berant won't import and sell the high tech products of those two companies in the UK if the UK government will approve the establishment of two new Berant controlled subsidiary companies to construct manufacturing plants and produce the goods locally as per their methods.

The owners of the existing companies aren't happy with this deal because it won't ensure their continued operations. The UK government is very happy because this will keep the Balance of Trade figures stable and minimise the job losses. They realise there'll be some since the Berant manufacturing process uses less staff. The cost of constructing local plants and using local labour will increase the local retail price of the Berant goods, but they'll still be lower than that of their competitors. An added benefit for the UK government is the offer of the Berant companies to establish their new plants in areas of high unemployment and to train the local people to do the work. The special agreement is soon signed. Copies are also sent to the ambassadors in Germany and France.

Gerry takes time to organise the establishment of the new companies and selects suitable local managers from the pool of local people he's checking for promotion in higher managerial roles. They're left to finalise the organisation of the new companies and construct the new plants.

Gerry and Pierre leave the UK for Belgium, and Gerry spends a few days attending to his businesses there while Pierre confers with the local embassy staff. They arrive in Germany to be handed a new signed agreement exactly like the one signed by the UK government. Because their work here is greatly reduced they have a little extra time to take in the local sights. Gerry sets about organising local managerial staff while Pierre confers with embassy staff on other trade matters.

A quick trip to Spain for similar work and then onto France. They achieve a lot in their short visits in each country.

French Footwork

They arrive in Paris to be informed by the ambassador the majority of the French bureaucrats and politicians are ready to approve and sign an agreement like the UK one, but a few are being very stubborn about it. Some because they've connections with the local businesses that will suffer once the Berant operations come on line, and some because they still harbour a grudge about being kicked out of Berant.

Since they've plenty of time to deal with this, and no other places to visit, they change their meeting agenda. The ambassador is left to deal with the French government on the trade issue while Pierre confers with local staff on other matters and Gerry attends to his personal business matters. After a few days Pierre is finished with his other work and assists the ambassador with his. The French continue to play games and they keep asking for the rights to have their existing companies make the Berant products under licence. Something they've already been told won't ever happen. The existing companies' quality checking process leaves a great deal to be desired, and Gerry won't risk his companies' reputations with such slack workers.

The discussions drag on and look like they may never end. At one point Gerry has the head offices of his two companies send official notice to the French government they'll never allow the manufacture of their goods out of their control. They'll employ locals to manufacture, but will never approve other companies to do so. The Berant companies are quite happy not to manufacture in France or export direct to France, but will manufacture in and / or export to the other European countries, regardless of the French position. The choices are simple, either approve the Berant companies to expand operations into France, or expect their own market to pay more by having to purchase through middle level suppliers in the neighbouring countries. The Berant goods will still be cheaper than the French ones, and of a better quality too. The French hold outs aren't happy with this, but there's nothing they can do if it all goes that way because they won't modify their position.

School Surprises

During the second week of their visit to Paris Gerry and Pierre are scheduled to address the seniors at a local school for the children of diplomats and embassy staff to tell them all about Berant. This is part of a school program to give the seniors a better understanding of life in other countries and cultures. Some similar talks have been arranged for a few other private schools in and around Paris.

They arrive at the school at 9:00 a.m. on the Thursday morning and they'll be addressing thirty-seven seniors in a lecture room at 9:30 a.m. They spend the intervening time meeting and talking with staff while Gerry's security detail, a sergeant and ten Shields, check out the school and set up security for the school and lecture room. The official security detail is small as the French government complained about the affront to their ability to protect visiting dignitaries; they'd only assigned six gendarmes as the official security detail. The French don't see Berant diplomats as being high risk targets. The talk starts at 9:30 a.m. with the introduction of the guest speakers. Pierre will talk for an hour followed by a fifteen minute question time. Then Gerry will talk for an hour followed by a short question time. They'll then gather in another room for a buffet luncheon and an hour or so of general discussion.

At 10:15 a.m. Sergeant Banners is checking the perimeter from the building's roof when he notices three large trucks pull up in the streets around the school, two near the front entrance to the Senior's Block and one near its back entrance. The school takes up half of a small block. It has two buildings, the smaller Seniors' Block is on the end with streets on three sides. The main building is between the Seniors' Block and the other businesses in the streets. The original fence separates the Seniors' Block from the main building because the Seniors' Block used to be owned by another company when they were the offices for a small marketing and training business.


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