France and G7 want fairer, more sustainable world trade - Minister

Foreign policy – G7/foreign trade – Excerpts from the interview given by M. Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Europe 1/CNews


Paris, 30 May 2021

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Q. – You’ve come back from the G7 trade meeting. What was said at the meeting? Do you sense that we’re in the process of shifting to the post-COVID world? Is that what you sensed following that G7 meeting?

Are things starting up again?

THE MINISTER – There’s a will, there’s a momentum conducive to improving the climate of international trade.

Q. – We’re clearly turning a page?

THE MINISTER – Why? Because, first of all, there’s a new American administration; secondly, there’s a new Director General of the WTO, Nigeria’s Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who France wanted, who is African, who has great experience of multilateral issues and is determined to revive the WTO, modernize it so that international trade finally works more justly, more fairly and more sustainably. That’s absolutely key, and we must seize the moment.

That’s why we had some very lively discussions at G7 level to see how we could help modernize the workings of international trade. We need better arbitration to combat unfair practices by a number of our competitors – I’m thinking of China, for example, with a number of Chinese State subsidies to Chinese companies to distort competition, I’m thinking of the need to ensure that international trade is more sustainable, because we can’t continue developing international trade with consequences on forests, with consequences on the climate, with consequences on a number of people’s social situations: I’m thinking, for example, of issues of forced labour.

All these issues are being discussed at G7 level in order to build a context, an environment that is more favourable to international trade, and therefore more favourable to France.

Q. – And to properly understand the new challenges – because you say the bodies are meeting and we’ll be less naïve –, we’ll now have tools for responding to acts of unfair competition. But in reality, with the operation of what’s called the Belt and Road system – all the decisions implemented by China, which actually mean central Europe may now be more important than Europe – can Europe resist this massive, powerful offensive that is reshaping the whole geopolitical landscape?

THE MINISTER – We’re working with our partners at G7 level, G20 level and WTO level to build this more sustainable, more stable, fairer international framework of economic and trade relations; that’s key; and we’re also working at European level, obviously, to build a 21st-century trade policy.

Q. – How do we do that?

THE MINISTER – We do what I did a week ago: talk to our European partners, talk to the Commission, and incidentally France often takes the initiative. The President is taking the initiative with this desire to modernize our trade at European level, creating tools to better protect our businesses in international competition.

Q. – Can you explain what you mean by a tool?

THE MINISTER – Well, for example, we’re currently equipping ourselves with a tool that will enable us to prevent companies from outside the European Union from buying up European companies with State aid. We’ll be able to prevent companies from other countries outside the European Union which enjoy State subsidies from securing procurement contracts to the detriment of European companies. We’ll have a tool that gives us the possibility of very strong trade reprisals against countries that impose additional customs tariffs on us, unilaterally, without waiting for a WTO decision. We’re going to equip ourselves with tools for demanding reciprocity in the opening-up of procurement contracts with countries that may benefit from the opening-up of our own procurement contracts for their companies.

All this is tangible, because it changes the daily life of our businesses, because it’s unfair when French companies don’t have the same opportunities to bid for procurement contracts in Europe as Chinese and Indonesian companies, which have State aid to bid for them. So that has to be changed. We’re doing this at European level by giving ourselves tools, and we’re doing it multilaterally, working with our partners, to ensure that this international trade is fairer and more sustainable.

Just one point: talking about the recovery and the issue of sustainability, it’s extremely important, we’ve got to use trade policy to ensure that our environmental concerns are more effectively taken into account. (…)./.

Published on 03/06/2021

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