President outlines talks held at G20 summit
Osaka, 29 June 2019
Following this G20 – and prior to that, this bilateral visit to Japan –, I wanted to report back to you on our work, the progress and discussions. Before anything else, I want to thank the Japanese presidency for organizing this G20 and for the progress made in the various fields.
Indeed, there are issues on which tangible progress was noted. Equality between women and men, plastic ocean pollution and several other issues. I won’t go through them all here. The communiqué has been released and Prime Minister Abe himself went back over each of these points. Prime Minister Abe has pledged to maintain the spirit of consensus and international cooperation despite the ill winds.
And in fact we’ve just held this G20 in Osaka at a difficult time for multilateralism. I think we’ve all got to be clear-sighted, and this is why we’ve also got to look at the context we’re operating in, because several among us are attacking multilateralism, because it has sometimes been weak in recent years – particularly as regards tackling trade dumping, for example – and also because we’re facing an absolutely major regional crisis. I’m thinking of North Korea and Iran, and I’ll come back to each of these points. (…)
Against this background of weakness, we can see that on the trade and economic fronts or when tensions arise, hegemony and unilateralism lead nowhere – or, more precisely, lead to a further splitting of our international order. And so what we made sure we championed here, as we’ve done from the start, is strong, effective multilateralism, radically reforming the rules and trying to address the fundamental issues we face.
In this respect, there were two main issues affecting our conclusions, which were negotiated up until the very last minute. Trade on the one hand, climate on the other.
On these two issues, there are disagreements around the table. On these two issues, we managed to make headway or stop things going backwards. Is this satisfactory? No. But I think the red line or lines we set weren’t crossed at this G20.
On trade, bilateral discussions took place between China and the United States. I momentarily talked to President Xi Jinping about them. Discussions are obviously going to be resumed, but restoring an effective multilateral framework is at the heart of the response when it comes to trade. I had the opportunity to say this several times. Our future can’t depend on a good bilateral agreement between two powers – even if they are the two leading ones - because the world we live in doesn’t depend on two production sites but interdependence between all the countries around the table.
And in this respect, we’re too slow when it comes to reforming trade multilateralism. Nevertheless, we’ve ended up with a concluding statement which clearly reaffirms our desire to reform every function of the World Trade Organization. Enacting rules, implementing and approving them. In very concrete terms, our ministers will have to continue the work in conjunction with the OECD, precisely to establish rules for open, fairer trade, under these competitive conditions. And what we want is very simple: to fight against uncontrolled subsidy policies and every kind of international trade distortion, and have a more effective dispute settlement body.
We then had a long discussion about excess capacity in the steel industry. Let me remind you that under the Chinese presidency, there was a breakthrough which led to the establishment of a forum precisely to monitor this overcapacity. There was a strong temptation to end it or let it expire at the end of the year. So we asked the relevant ministers, before November, to create the conditions for this work to go on. We absolutely need at international level to monitor the issue of excess capacity in the steel industry, as we do in every sector where it occurs. I say this very simply because from a European point of view, when you’ve got trade tension between China and the US and overcapacity in the steel industry, Europe is the casualty. And this is what we’re seeing on our steel markets. And our businesses and workers in these sectors are suffering the consequences of these distortions even though they can’t be criticized in any way in terms of mobilization, investment and competitiveness. So jobs, as well as trade and social justice, are very directly at stake in this essential reform.
The text enabled concrete progress this time on two important subjects: digital taxation and the regulation of [digital] platforms. On the regulation of platforms, the text reiterated the commitments we made in Paris in May 2019 during the Christchurch Call for tougher regulation of digital platforms and for combating hate speech and the use of the digital space either to defend or incite terrorism, or develop hate speech. On the digital sector, a clear commitment was made to establish a minimum tax rate for digital companies. And so giving the finance ministers, in conjunction here with the OECD, a work programme which, moreover, will be resumed in the framework of the G7 finance ministers’ meeting, then the G7, of which France holds the presidency.
So those are the trade and economic issues. We’re seeing continuing tensions. Nevertheless, I think that on some subjects, the worst has been avoided. On others, we’ve made headway. Now, in very practical terms, we must succeed in carrying out this in-depth reform of the WTO, without which we won’t be able to make concrete progress on the multilateral issues on this point.
On the climate, as I said before this summit, I think we’re increasingly disconnected from the rest of the world. Every day scientists remind us of our duties regarding global warming and biodiversity. Every week, in many countries, our young people remind us of our duties.
And we’re continuing to debate whether we still have the right to mention the Paris Agreement. I think that if we want to gain credibility, we must move to a new stage. Thanks to the work of the Japanese presidency and the active role of several negotiators, we managed to obtain elements in the G20 communiqué allowing us to maintain the level of ambition set out in Hamburg and Buenos Aires, and even improving a few formulations at technical level. I want to thank the negotiators who devoted many hours of their night and finished only at the last minute this morning. In very practical terms, we reiterated a declaration of the 19, specifically endorsing the commitment of all the G20 members except the United States of America to implementing the Paris Agreement, the irreversibility of the agreement and therefore of its implementation, and therefore continued progress on this. We also incorporated commitments on combating HFCs, [which are,] as you know, those extremely polluting gases used especially in air conditioning systems. Other techniques exist which are also under development and enable us to respond to this point. On this issue, it’s our responsibility, we can’t turn back.
I discussed this point with President Trump again this morning. It followed yesterday’s discussion, which provided an opportunity to persuade the United States of America to let us operate as 19 and not demand a less ambitious text in order to be more consensual. And that’s also the purpose of the bilateral discussion I had yesterday with President Bolsonaro, who confirmed to me his commitment, contrary to the concerns we may have had on the Paris Agreement and the fight for biodiversity
But thanks to France’s commitment, Europe’s active role and committed partners like Canada, we were able to confirm this commitment and also prevent things unravelling. But we must go further. And that’s the whole challenge of the coming months on this issue.
The French G7 presidency will dedicate itself to setting up coalitions for practical actions both to combat global warming and to support biodiversity. We’d especially like to have a specific commitment on HFCs by manufacturers and governments in the G7 framework, but with willing powers that we’d like to rally. That was the purpose of the talks with, among others, Prime Minister Modi.
And we want to make very concrete progress on action coalitions among governments and also industrial players to move forward on this agenda. In the coming weeks we’re also going to take further practical steps at European level in order to uphold [the target of] carbon neutrality by 2050. We secured it among 24 at the last European Council. After the summer I’d like us to be unanimous on this point. I think it’s totally achievable. In any case, this morning we have a coalition of several international players – European, South American and North American countries – around this ambition. And we’re reiterating it at our G7 summit.
Then, in September, we’ll have a United Nations summit devoted precisely to the climate, where we’ll also have to be clear on stepping up our commitments, because that’s the condition for fulfilling the Paris Agreement, including on financial issues, on which France – with Jamaica, I remind you – was mandated by the United Nations Secretary-General. We’ll then have the Climate Fund replenishment conference in the autumn. Then COP25 in Chile in December, which I’ll be going to.
France will commit itself very strongly to this climate agenda, be it with regard to the fight against global warming or the fight for biodiversity. And it’s also our wish to broaden the agenda in this respect. That’s what I began doing following the submission of the IPBES report in May on the sidelines of the G7 environment ministers’ meeting, as I reminded President Bolsonaro yesterday.
And we’ll be taking very concrete actions on the issue in the Amazon forest. And we also endorsed this with our Chinese partners – I’ll come back to this in a moment – at this G20 summit.
I had the opportunity to convey these messages in the many bilateral meetings I had with Prime Minister Abe, Presidents Putin, Erdoğan, Bolsonaro and Xi and Prime Minister Modi. And basically, during all these meetings I also tried to set out this strong multilateralism. As we experience the period of tension I was talking about, the worst was to be feared during this G20 summit, either on Iran or on trade. We avoided the worst, but avoiding the worst isn’t enough. We must build fruitful agreements and succeed in building stability. On issues of interest to everyone and on major public goods like the climate, we must be much more ambitious and agree to a few willing powers making faster progress than others. And I don’t think the search for unanimity, including in a forum like the G20, should be an obstacle to ambition.
And then, in terms of collective security, on each of the issues we discussed – be it North Korea, Syria or Iran – I think the intended and ultimate goal of all the people I spoke to is to build collective security and stability. The problem is that the practical conditions often lead to tensions which, in the short term, can threaten this final result. And so France’s role in this context – and this is what I was doing through these various bilateral meetings – is precisely to create the conditions for a de-escalation of tension. That’s what I’d like us to start doing on the Iran issue, and it’s what we discussed on the North Korea issue. In this regard, several meetings were arranged. President Xi Jinping and I discussed North Korea and Iran at very great length. I’d like us to work together on those two issues. I’ll be going to Shanghai and Beijing on 5 and 6 November. And in this regard, we’ll have to continue with the bilateral road map we agreed together. But we’d also like to follow up with a key moment of shared commitment on biodiversity and the climate, and move to a new stage on our commitments.
President Putin and I also discussed the various crises I’ve just mentioned. And, in addition to them, the situation in Ukraine. I’d actually like us to make concrete progress in the coming weeks so that, at heads-of-state-and-government level, we can resume a meeting in the Normandy format. I don’t want to have meetings for their own sake. I said this very clearly to President Putin. And so this means there must be changes to the positions being taken today. Our teams and our ministers will meet to continue our night-time discussion in the coming weeks. And so in the coming weeks we’ll be having a new bilateral meeting with President Putin about these issues. I believe that, in the framework of the French G7 presidency, it’s essential for us to take this initiative regarding Russia, which consists on the one hand in exploring all the forms of cooperation we can have on the major subjects of destabilization and conflict, without being naive but without closing the door either. It’s not about changing the format of the G7, but rather taking the initiative to build useful solutions.
Prime Minister Modi will be invited to the enlarged G7 session, and I’ll be developing a common agenda with him on digital technology and the climate, in particular, and he reiterated to me his desire to make headway on this point. I also had the opportunity to talk to my Korean counterpart about security in the North Korean Peninsula and to President Sisi about regional stability and the situation in Libya, and to return with President Erdoğan to the follow-up to our Istanbul meeting on Syria and our desire to hold a follow-up meeting in the same format at the end of the summer or beginning of the autumn, provided progress is made there too, in particular on the political plan relating to constitutional reform and the commitments the various parties made at the United Nations.
Finally I want to say a word about two agreements that were signed on the sidelines of this G20 summit. The first is the agreement between China and France signed by our foreign ministers. For us it’s actually an important text, which was prepared in the wake of President Xi Jinping’s visit to Paris, which firstly reiterates our two countries’ strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, in which we pledge together to combat HFC emissions through concrete solutions, and in which we pledge together to take action to ensure the funding of the Green [Climate] Fund but also a change in its governance.
We reiterate our commitments for 2020, our commitment also in the run-up to a United Nations summit, and we make new pledges in terms of fighting for biodiversity. The agreement was made public a few moments ago.
I’ll leave you to read it in detail, but it’s an important text, an important agreement enabling us not only to give international momentum to our own commitments and our action but also to get China involved with us, which is absolutely essential if we want to be effective in terms of global emissions.
EU-Mercosur trade agreement
The other agreement signed on the sidelines of our work was the agreement on Mercosur, approved yesterday between the European Commission and Mercosur.
As I’ve always said, a good trade agreement is good for our businesses and jobs, and this agreement will enable us to open up agricultural and industrial markets and protect our geographical indications. I believe that this agreement at this stage is good, given that the demands we made were fully taken into account by the negotiators, but that in the long term we’ll be able to appreciate the conditions prior to its ratification and implementation, firstly because this agreement recognizes our geographical indications – which is extremely important for our agriculture – as no other has previously done.
Secondly, because the three criteria we set are reflected in the text approved yesterday. First of all, explicit respect for the Paris Agreement – for the first time at this level – in a trade text. That’s central to the approach we’ve been putting on the table for several months. I also explained it a few weeks ago when I myself rejected reopening trade negotiations with the United States of America as long as it’s outside the Paris Agreement. A mention of the agreement and the commitments linked to it are included in the text, and the real change in the final phase of these negotiations was the change, or at any rate the clear affirmation, that Brazil was committing to the Paris Agreement and the fight for biodiversity.
The second criterion is compliance with our environmental and health standards. No trade agreement should be signed that downgrades the environmental and health standards we impose on our businesses, and this too is reflected in the agreement. Lastly, protecting our sensitive industries in the context of quotas which are discussed and on which we’ve set limits. I’m thinking in particular of beef and sugar. The initial information we have suggests all these concerns were taken into account.
In addition to this, there’s one extremely important point we requested of the Commission: namely – also for the first time – a safeguard clause applying to agricultural products. What does this safeguard clause mean? That in the event of major destabilization of such-and-such a sector, it’s possible to trigger a mechanism interrupting the very implementation of such an opening-up. That’s very important so that we can spearhead the genuine implementation of this trade agreement. However, as I was saying, we must now check all this in the coming phases; it’s a step in the right direction, but we’ll be very vigilant on all the final drafts, on the ratification process and above all on the follow-up process.
There too, I’d like full transparency to be guaranteed. Just as we did for CETA, I want to launch in the coming days an independent, full, transparent assessment of the agreement, particularly on the environment and biodiversity, so that the follow-up is indeed effective and shared with all our fellow citizens. (…)./.