Senator and Councillor of Paris, elected from the 17th arrondissement, Catherine DUMAS occupies a prominent place in the field of fine crafts, excellence and luxury, particularly since her report to the Prime Minister in February 2009.
Through each of her mandates, Senator Catherine DUMAS contributes to defending the place of Paris, to promoting the image of France in the world and to enhancing its heritage.
She invests, among other things, in favour of la Table française, a traditional sector which brings together within the eponymous club, chefs, food professionals and political leaders.
In the Senate, Catherine DUMAS holds the position of Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Armed Forces. She is also President of the Métiers d’Art study group, and of the France-South Korea friendship group, Vice-President of the France-China, France-Morocco and France-Israel friendship groups, member of the Inter-ministerial Committee of Tourism and member of the High Council of Museums of France.
Who are you Catherine Dumas among all these functions?
I am a politician who is more specifically interested in the influence of France and its excellence. This means that, beyond my responsibilities as a legislator, who discusses and votes on laws, I have been involved since my first election to the Senate, fifteen years ago, in matters relating in particular to crafts, gastronomy, heritage and French know-how…
If our Fellow Parliamentarians are called upon to react on various issues according to current events, it is different in the Senate where we are called upon to consider the issues over a long period of time. Thus, like many of my fellow senators,
I have been led to choose a sector of activity in which, year after year, I have been able to acquire expertise and build a network that I can make available to the Senate whenever that it is necessary. This competence is recognized by my fellow senators. In the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate, I therefore intervene more on the international influence of France or the diplomacy of influence.
In fact, in 2009, I produced a report on the handicraft and luxury sector, at the request of the government. It was a mission commanded directly by the Prime Minister. The idea was to take stock of the situation in the sector and then to formulate proposals for improvement, in particular for handicraft, schools or training courses…
This report and my involvement, for many years, with professionals in the sector, I hope that have contributed to advancing mentalities, in the population in general and in the political world in particular. I have also noted, with great satisfaction, that the Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, has shown her interest in handcrafts, from her general policy speech. She is actively followed by the Minister of Culture. It’s better this way ! If things start to move, the period will be conducive to progress!
So you see an evolution in people’s minds?
Yes, it is really noticeable. French society is evolving and policies are accompanying this evolution. We return to the “fundamentals” and manual training is better valued.
Expertise is the very essence of luxury. When I started working on these subjects, the brands did not highlight their craftsmen enough. “The intelligence of the hand” was not given due consideration. The brands have since understood this, because there is a real quest for meaning among their customers. Demand is strong, so these brands adapted very quickly. They know that stands there, the very foundation of their story, the one that will be told…
Today, there’s a real appreciation of craftspeople and manual labour that’s quite extraordinary. We’ve come to realise that the craftsman is someone who has both the genius of the artist and the hands of the craftsman…
How do you view China?
I really like China. The trips I have been able to make, sometimes at the highest level, allow me to better understand China and the Chinese, including the difficulties that can be encountered in the context of world affairs…
I have a real appetite for China. It’s a pretty wonderful country. This does not prevent me from expressing to the Chinese authorities my disagreements on certain points. Chinese culture impresses me, it is extraordinary! I particularly like the intellectual agility and adaptability of the Chinese. In my eyes, China is much more accessible than people say, you just have to make an effort. The French think that the Chinese are difficult to understand… This is not true, sometimes you just have to put yourself in the shoes of the Chinese to understand them better! It goes without saying that there are important political issues, but this country does not work like ours. Their system is very different.
I haven’t been to China for three years due to Covid health restrictions. But, the last time I went there, I visited a small “model” town which showed all the Chinese capacity to put itself in recent environmental standards, and I was very admiring. China is aware of the ecological challenge and is making great efforts. With these people, I feel at ease. I have observed its evolution for fifteen years, particularly in this sector of the environment.
Have you been to China very often?
I’ve been there ten times. Including on a personal basis, with my husband, to whom I wanted to show my discoveries during official trips. I visited a lot of places. The geography of China is so varied, so interesting!
As vice-president of the friendship group between France and China, how do you work with the Chinese?
We are about ten senators when we go there and it is not for tourist! We work with our Chinese counterparts. (They are not quite counterparts because the political organization is not the same, with a very pyramidal Chinese organization).
We usually meet people with very important functions. They are often senior Chinese dignitaries.
The objective is to develop relations between our countries and we first set the themes to be addressed. Chinese officials then come to France. These exchanges and the mutual understanding that we thus accumulate make it possible to address sometimes complex questions, including those that China does not necessarily want to raise. But most of the time our exchanges are rather peaceful. Fortunately ! For example, the Chinese are very interested in UNESCO heritage, especially intangible heritage. A file that I have been following for several years for the Senate. I have just produced a report, a practical guide for the UNESCO classification…
In terms of intangible heritage, China has a great deal of wealth listed by UNESCO. There are some marvellous treasures, and it’s a pleasure for me to discuss them with them. We share cultural aspects, training, tourism, not forgetting gastronomy and arts and crafts… of course.
You will allow me a more personal question to conclude our meeting. Is it difficult to be a politician in France?
Every job is difficult. Being a woman is a particularity in political life. It is true that I have been in politics for a long time. There has been an incredible evolution. It’s easier now than it used to be. There is already access to the mandate which is facilitated by French legislation. Legislation that has evolved a lot over the past twenty years. Thus, the electoral law now imposes the “man-woman” alternation, which prevents men from monopolizing all the eligible places, at the top of the list.
Women always have a singularity in the political world, they bring, on many subjects, a different vision. It is a useful complementarity, a growing necessity!
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