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Official speeches and statements - June 3, 2021

Published on June 3, 2021

1. Global health - Launch of the initiative to support the production of vaccines for Africa - Press release issued by the Presidency of the Republic (Paris - May 28, 2021)

On his official visit to South Africa, the President participated in a round table with several people involved in the health sector (researchers, academics, industrial and economic partners) to announce the launch of an initiative to support the production of vaccines on the African continent. It has a very practical objective: more vaccines more quickly on the ground.

With the aim of allowing universal access to the vaccine, President Macron and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appealed to the producers of vaccines, therapeutic products and tests to conclude licensing agreements so that their innovations can be deployed worldwide.

President Macron also stressed the need for transparency on prices and stronger global governance as regards health.

With the help of an international coalition - Germany, the United States, the World Bank and the European Union -, South Africa’s manufacturing capacities will be supported so that they very quickly become operational in the production of COVID-19 vaccines.

This ambitious initiative aims to lend South African producers international support in terms of investment and expertise so that existing production capacities in South Africa can very swiftly be operational in the production of COVID-19 vaccines. These projects are part of a broader context of a European initiative to support the pharmaceutical industry on the African continent, announced in Paris by the President of the European Commission during the Summit on the Financing of African Economies on 18 May.

2. Foreign policy - G7/foreign trade - Excerpts from the interview given by Mr. Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Europe 1/CNews (Paris - May 30, 2021)


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?

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

We’re clearly turning a page?

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.

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?

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.

How do we do that?

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.

Can you explain what you mean by a tool?

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. (...).

3. Taxation - Duty-free trade in the Channel Tunnel - Reply by Mr. Olivier Dussopt, Minister Delegate for Public Accounts, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris - June 1, 2021)

As you recalled, together with one of your colleagues you penned a report that was adopted unanimously by the European Affairs Committee, and you have a perfect knowledge of the duty-free issue, its complexity and its legal difficulty. The decision on whether or not to authorize a duty-free shop at the Coquelles terminal is not one for the French State alone. The 2006 and 2008 directives on VAT and excise duty are binding for France, and both the Treaty of Canterbury and the Concession Agreement you recalled specify that their provisions apply provided the States and operators comply with the international obligations incumbent on them, which contradicts your argument.

The second - also legal - difficulty relates to the term “dry port": only yesterday, I discussed this issue with the leaders of the company Getlink.

There’s still another difficulty, which you’re just as familiar with: Britain is the only border country where the price of tobacco is higher than in France. Like me, you know the concern and the risks of counter-action caused by the prospect of the opening of a duty-free shop, on the part of the Confédération des buralistes [French tobacconists’ confederation] in particular.

That said, France - the Government and National Assembly - has referred the matter to the European Commission on several occasions, and discussions with the latter on the possibility of getting a derogation from this rule are still under way. We hope to have a reply from the Commission in the coming days and be able to support the company Getlink in its development. We want to do so provided that the legal arrangements and provisions we implement are wholly consistent with French and Community law. Clément Beaune and I are following the matter closely, under the Prime Minister’s authority, and we hope that the next few days and weeks will allow us to get a firm, secure decision from the European Commission.

4. United Nations - Strengthening an integrated approach to peace and security in the Sahel through a gendered lens: Launch of the group of friends of women of the Sahel - Statement by Ms. Diarra Dime-Labille, legal advisor of France to the United Nations - Security Council meeting in Arria formula (New York - June 2, 2021)

Excellencies, dear friends,

We would also like to thank Niger and the partners for today’s meeting.

As you know, France is fully committed to the Sahel. At the request of the G5 countries and jointly with the European Union, France supported the launch of the Sahel Coalition last year. The coalition is based on four pillars: 1/ counter-terrorism, 2/ capacity building of defense and security forces, 3/ deployment of state services, and 4/ development.

This integrated approach is the only appropriate response to the challenges of the Sahel. However, it cannot be effective without taking gender issues fully into account. Progress in the areas of peace, sustainable development and the fight against climate change will only be effective and sustainable with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.

In addition to ensuring protection against violence, we must also consider women more as actors and forces of change. In this regard, I pay tribute to the women peace builders and human rights defenders of civil society for their remarkable work in the field.

A few days ago, we organized a discussion with our Malian and British colleagues during which we were able to see once again how the participation of women in decision-making bodies could positively influence the peace process in Mali. It is our duty to support and accompany them in this sense. This is not a sectoral or parallel priority, but rather an overall approach, rights-based, which is the only way to achieve peace and sustainable development.

As part of its feminist diplomacy, France acts and supports numerous projects to improve the living conditions of women and girls. It supports the "Priority to Equality" and AFAWA (Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa) initiatives to support female entrepreneurship in Africa. In 2020, it also launched the Support Fund for Women’s Organizations. It finances the Sahel Gender Fund which aims to support innovative initiatives to strengthen gender equality. Finally, this priority will be fully integrated into the discussions of the Generation Equality Forum that France is co-chairing with Mexico and under the aegis of UN Women, which will take place in Paris from June 30 to July 2.

For all these reasons, we fully support the creation of the Group of Friends on Women in the Sahel. We are honored to be among the members of the Advisory Council. Count on France to increase advocacy and mobilization on this issue, in order to make the voices of women and girls in the region heard.

Thank you.