Alexandre Chenesseau

May 8, 2018

Vice President, Evercore Partners

Alexandre is a member of the Transatlantic Forum. He kindly accepted to answer our questions.

You are one of the founding members of the French-American Foundation Transatlantic Forum. Why did you decide to get involved in this new initiative?

When the team at the French-American Foundation first talked to me about this idea, it felt like an innovative and entrepreneurial initiative. I was told that the first step was to convene an initial group of members with diverse backgrounds, and shared enthusiasm for French-American culture and relations. The objectives were not strictly laid out, and the intent is for the group to grow together and work with the Foundation on identifying discussion topics that matter, interesting speakers, and get involved in select projects that we feel matter to French-American relations and society. Joining a French-American related initiative is very exciting to me. My mother is Cuban-American and my father is French. I was born in Paris and mostly educated in the French school system, both in France and overseas. France and the U.S. have lots of shared history. I strongly believe that both countries have a lot to contribute in shaping our perspectives on how society can function and improve, in terms of policies, education, healthcare, business, political systems and thinking, and lifestyle. It is quite exciting and motivating to share that interest with others and try to build something meaningful around that.

What have been the highlights of this experience so far?

What I like about the Transatlantic Forum so far is that it is pretty much a “grassroots” initiative led by like-minded individuals. We kicked it off in August 2017 at a simple gathering in an apartment. That evening, many of us met for the first time and we had open conversations on what people were interested in, what their motivations were, and what the shared purpose of the group could be. It could not have been more informal and candid than that. Since then, we have had dinner discussions with insightful speakers and experts on French-American diplomatic relations, healthcare reform and the healthcare systems in both countries, how the justice system tackles cybersecurity threats, comparative views on geopolitics in the Middle East, so on and so forth. Important takeaways for me so far are the informal nature of the gatherings, and the quality and unique backgrounds of the members. I remember hearing about a fellow member’s incredible experience living in South Darfur for four years. Overall, I have been very impressed with the diversity of members’ backgrounds and what we can learn in our discussions. Our gatherings can often be quite inspiring and make you want to learn new things and think about issues more thoroughly and differently.

You have worked in three different continents, but you have also spent a lot of time on projects and initiatives more specifically related to China. Could you please tell us a little more why?

I’ve spent over a third of my life in Asia, including five years working in China. My four years working in Beijing were an incredible professional and personal experience. I think that the nature of the U.S.-China relationship will more than ever be critical for the world in the years to come. China is challenging the status quo in certain areas and key markets like technology, and offering a different policy or development framework than the one that shaped most of the twentieth century and the beginning of this century. However, China has its own political, economic and social challenges, just like those faced by the U.S. and Europe have increasingly come to light with Brexit, the rise of extremism, terrorism at home, etc. With terrorism spreading, climate change threats, economic disruption due to technological breakthroughs, growing economic inequalities and growth challenges in many traditional areas of the economy, challenged democratic systems, these are more than ever times for innovation, reform and change. We all need to be clear about our values, defend what we think is important for us as a society, but also accept what we need to change in our thinking and practices. Don’t get me wrong, there are clear economic and political differences between countries like China and the U.S., as well as imbalances that are not sustainable in terms of trade and inequalities. Every country has its agenda. However, the spirit of negotiation, cooperation and learning must be put at the forefront, rather than our succumbing to fear, retreat and populism in our home country. There is no time for spatting and wasting valuable resources. I believe that no country has all the answers, and global leadership will probably be more multilateral than ever. I am also always hopeful that the U.S. and France can cooperate more on some of these global issues. Leadership needs to be sustainable and inclusive, it is not about being the loudest in the room or forcing others to operate according to our own terms.

 

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