Euro crisis – Sino-French relations/Alain Juppés visit to China
Canberra, September 11, 2011
THE MINISTER – This is my first visit to Australia, and I think it’s very important on this occasion to show that the bilateral relationship between France and Australia is excellent at every level: politically, economically and culturally. Among other things, we’ve developed good cooperation.
This morning I had a meeting with my counterpart, Kevin Rudd. It wasn’t our first meeting; he was in Paris in April and we speak regularly on the telephone to share our views. We also have very good cooperation as regards the Pacific region. Two days ago I was in Auckland and I greatly appreciated the Australian government’s support for France to be better integrated in this regional organization, the Pacific Islands Forum. We have very good cooperation on international political issues as well, such as Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and also the Middle East peace process.
This afternoon, I’ll be meeting the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, before returning to Sydney. (…)
Q. – On the euro and the European crisis, Greece has criticized the delay in making the second aid package available. Do you think the crisis of the past few months has damaged confidence in Europe as a bloc and in her future? And how long to you think these doubts will last?
THE MINISTER – It’s I who should be asking you if Europe’s image has deteriorated. I’d like to begin by stressing that the crisis we’re going through is global. Europe isn’t the only economic space experiencing a few difficulties today. Most of the major developed countries are indebted: the United States, Japan and several European countries.
Today, many of our difficulties come from the weakness of the US economy and its inadequate growth rate. I wanted to say this in order to set things clearly in a global context.
Europe has problems which are firstly those of sovereign debt. I’ve no doubts whatsoever about the solidity of the European enterprise and Euro Area. On the whole, Europe remains the world’s leading economic power, the leading trade power. We remain an absolutely major player in the international arena.
The importance of the Greek crisis has to be appreciated in the context of Europe’s economic power. Greece’s GNP accounts for a few points of Europe’s overall GNP. So we’ve got the wherewithal to confront this crisis collectively. Admittedly, the decision-making process within the Euro Area is time-consuming, because there are 17 of us taking decisions. That said, France and Germany played their part and got some very important decisions in July and August. These decisions are being applied; they’re going to allow us to have a genuine economic government of the Euro Area. Everything I’ve told you doesn’t mean there won’t still be turbulence on the markets, but, over the medium term, we’ve given ourselves the means to strengthen the Euro Area.
Q. – The idea of stronger integration in Europe and the Euro Area seems to be disputed. According to some people, the problems linked to sovereign debt are undermining the Euro Area’s viability. There’s clearly the opposing view that the only way possible is more integration. Which way would you like to go?
THE MINISTER – Who’s disputing the idea? The Eurosceptics! Yes, you’re right in saying that there are different views in Europe. But I think the main players have clearly understood that, faced with this genuine crisis, there was no solution other than to go further in European integration. There’s no question, for us, of leaving the single currency to collapse, because that would mean the collapse of Europe itself. Yet a single currency can’t operate properly if Europe has no economic government. France and Germany agree on this goal. The 17 Euro Area member countries support it.
SINO-FRENCH RELATIONS/ALAIN JUPPE’S VISIT TO
Q. – France is obviously a very influential country in the Asia-Pacific region. How do you perceive the growing influence of China in the South Pacific region? Is there a conflict with France on this and is it a good or a bad thing?
THE MINISTER – Let me remind you that France isn’t in conflict with China. China’s emergence is a fact. China is today – or soon will be – the world’s second-largest economic power; one of the very foremost trading powers. To introduce a historical perspective, this was the case a few centuries ago – before the industrial era, China was the world’s leading economic power. History is repeating itself.
Today we want to maintain relations with China which are as close as possible in the framework of what Europe calls its strategic partnership with China. Because China’s emergence is a good thing for us too. Huge markets are opening up. China is an extremely active G20 partner. President Sarkozy was in China a fortnight ago.
I’ll be in China myself in two days; we’re trying with the Chinese to prepare the G20 Cannes meeting of 3 to 4 November 2011. One of the goals is to get China to shift her position on a number of issues, particularly on the operation of the international monetary system and the parity of her currency. We’re having very open discussions with her on this.
Q. – You’re going to be over there in a few days… Are you going to raise the issue of stabilizing the yuan?
THE MINISTER – We think the yuan is undervalued today. We’ll talk about this with the Chinese. A few months ago in Nanjing there was a seminar on the international monetary system which showed that dialogue with China was possible.
Q. – Are you expecting China to speed up her efforts?
THE MINISTER – We hope so.
Q. – Should the Chinese do more to help stabilize world growth?
THE MINISTER – We don’t think, today – as I was saying just now – that the problem is European or American, but global, worldwide. And we have to work at restabilizing the international economic situation.
China has opted for a development model which is essentially geared to export and which has made her the workshop of the world. We’ve benefited from this because it’s allowed us to buy consumer goods at very attractive prices, but we haven’t thought through all the consequences of this for our own competitiveness. How have we coped with this situation? By getting ourselves into debt with China in particular. This system is unsustainable and one of the major challenges of the G20 is precisely to reflect on how to redress these global imbalances. (…)./.