France calls for "reciprocity" in transatlantic trade agreement

BNP Paribas/transatlantic partnership – Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to Europe 1 (excerpts)

Paris, 8 June 2014

THE MINISTER – (…) BNP Paribas is one of Europe’s two leading banks. And when you hear about threats of penalties, with a fine of billions of dollars, a government can’t turn its back. The President, the Finance Minister and I have said that if a mistake was made, it’s natural for there to be a penalty, but it must be proportionate. (…)

Q. – Are you urging BNP to seek a compromise? Or are you telling it to see the proceedings through to the end?

THE MINISTER – BNP has directors; it’s up to the bank to take its decisions. But our role, as a government which wants to support the European and French economies, is to explain to the American authorities the damage all this could cause.

Q. – Even if an offence has been committed?

THE MINISTER – No, if an offence has been committed, there has to be a penalty, that’s natural, but it must be proportionate.

Q. – If the penalty is exorbitant, $10 billion, will you unilaterally suspend the transatlantic treaty negotiations?

THE MINISTER – There’s admittedly a context. Any disproportionate penalty would be decided unilaterally. What I’ve said, extremely calmly, is that there’s a discussion on a transatlantic treaty. This treaty can be agreed only if there is reciprocity, if the two parties derive benefits from signing it. If, at the same time, extremely serious unilateral decisions are taken, it doesn’t create a favourable climate. (…)

Q. – (…) France isn’t alone; this is an agreement, after all, between the European Union and the United States. Why would France carry more weight than others?

THE MINISTER – The treaty is being negotiated by the Commissioner, who speaks on behalf of all the states, but when it’s time for the final approval it will go to the parliaments.

Q. – Which means that France may walk away from the negotiating table?

THE MINISTER – We’re not at all at that point. I’ve adopted a very realistic stance on this often-talked-about matter of the treaty from the outset. From the outset I’ve been neither for nor against. If it can bring benefits to France and Europe, fine. If, on the other hand, it puts us at risk – I’m not talking about the BNP affair – and doesn’t bring us any benefits, there’s no reason to sign the treaty.

Incidentally, I gave our American friends an example. We can expect things from this treaty – in two areas in particular. In the agricultural sector, it would allow us to strengthen our positions on the American market. Secondly, as regards procurement contracts, we’re a very open country: around 80 to 85% of our procurement contracts are open to all countries. For the Americans, it’s in the region of 25% because their local states don’t accept procurement contracts from abroad. If we manage, as part of the discussion of this treaty, to make American procurement contracts open, it’s a substantial gain. So we’re calling for reciprocity./.

Published on 12/06/2014

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