When Europe rallies together, we can improve how international trade operates - Minister

Foreign policy – China – Interview given by M. Franck Riester, Minister for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Europe 1 (excerpts)

Paris, 13 September 2020

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Q. – So tomorrow there’s a France-China mini summit with Xi Jinping being held by videoconference. What exactly is it about?

THE MINISTER – It’s a summit between the European Union and China, so among others there’ll be European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Trade issues will obviously be discussed in particular, in the hope that there’ll also be a treaty, an agreement between the European Union and China on geographical indications; as you know, these protect products in terms of their geographical indication. It’s obviously very important especially for French wines, spirits and cheese. It’s a great step forward, resulting from the EU’s determination to defend its commercial interests more effectively in the face of major partners such as China. I hope this agreement will be signed before tomorrow’s meeting.

Q. – Because there’s a huge loss of income at the moment?

THE MINISTER – Yes, there’s a situation today, at any rate, where a number of our flagship products are being copied without payment for what should be paid to guarantee copyright, as it were, the right of French and other European producers to protect their brand and know-how. And so with this agreement we’re guaranteeing the protection of more than 100 geographical indications on the Chinese market. It’s important progress and demonstrates that, when we rally together in Europe, we can improve how international trade operates.

Q. – When we talk about China, we of course think of Huawei, the phone giant. Where are we on the issue? With this giant being blacklisted in the United States, Britain and Germany, are things still undecided? Where are we with the French position?

THE MINISTER – The French position is that, firstly, we don’t discriminate against any Chinese companies. We absolutely want to allow the trade permitted for every Chinese company. Yet we’re also very committed to ensuring that European sovereignty is guaranteed in a number of areas – especially as regards the digital field and 5G. So these are the discussions we’re having today with our European partners to see how we can guarantee our digital security, our trade security in the future concerning 5G, whilst also guaranteeing free access to the market for companies from all over the world, including Chinese ones, so long as they don’t encroach on our – again, digital – sovereignty.

Q. – But precisely, as far as 5G is concerned, when you see this morning in the Journal du Dimanche that environmentalist mayors are asking for a moratorium on 5G for a host of reasons, what’s your reaction?

THE MINISTER – Yes, well my reaction would be to say that we’ve obviously got to check all the potential consequences of the development of 5G, but we certainly mustn’t refuse to accept progress. And this is what we’ve been seeing for a number of days, indeed weeks, with these new environmentalist mayors who are adopting a very ideological stance, a very dogmatic stance, one which in a way refuses to accept progress.

It isn’t about supporting progress for progress’s sake; progress must be regulated, we’ve got to look at the consequences of the future 5G on the environment in particular. But we’ve got to remain firm and determined to innovate, and count on technological progress which for decades has allowed us to improve our compatriots’ quality of life. (…)./.

Published on 15/09/2020

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