THE PRESIDENT – First of all I’d like to thank the Japanese authorities, the Emperor and Prime Minister Abe for the welcome given to me and my delegation during this state visit. It’s a sign that the friendship between Japan and France isn’t only a longstanding relationship but a bond for the future. On this visit, we wanted to create a new atmosphere, take an extra step and launch an exceptional partnership. We can do this, as Prime Minister Abe said, in three areas.
The first is security, peace and politics, and in those areas we have to highlight several principles. The first is the fight against nuclear proliferation, and I’ve reiterated here our shared determination to prevent any countries from obtaining nuclear weapons. I’m thinking in particular of North Korea and Iran.
There’s a second principle that unites us all: the fight against terrorism.
Let me remind you that Japan, like France, was hit by the hostage-taking in Algeria in January. I expressed the French people’s condolences to the Japanese people.
We also have to ensure that development can be promoted if we want to combat the causes of a number of phenomena. I welcomed the initiative Japan took to act in support of development, particularly in Africa.
We concluded the discussion with the joint decision to organize regular meetings between our two countries’ foreign ministers and defence ministers, to analyse the situations and – as far as possible – adopt common positions.
This is also true for the Pacific region, where France has a presence. There again, we can cooperate, particularly to anticipate natural disasters. This is the main area of our partnership.
The second is the economy. The Japanese government has taken a number of positions since Mr Abe’s team was formed. It’s not for me to pass judgement. It’s a decision for the Japanese, but this priority given to growth, this determination to combat what’s been called deflation here, this insistence on ensuring that there are efforts to make businesses competitive and, at the same time, that there can be support for activity, is good news for Europe, because in Europe too we have to give priority to growth and improve our competitiveness. So we’ll have to work together, beyond these economic policy considerations, to make our cooperation more intense.
We’ve had good results, particularly for the nuclear reactor, which has been promoted by two companies – French and Japanese – and positively received in Turkey.
But there are other illustrations – not simply in the energy field – that we can promote together, in terms of the quality of our cooperation. I also expressed the wish – and it was taken up in the final communiqué – for us to have more mutual investment in our two countries: French investment in Japan – I’m accompanied by many leaders of companies of all sizes – but also Japanese investment in France, because we appreciate the quality of that investment and the desire of the Japanese to properly understand the market in which they have a presence.
In the economic field, there’s also the trade agreement or partnership agreement between France and Japan. France is in favour of it, under certain conditions: reciprocity and an aim, namely to lift the customs barriers, tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers that hinder trade, to the detriment of both Japan and France.
The final area of our partnership – the Prime Minister emphasized it – is culture, student exchanges, and we took the decision to double the number of young Japanese and French students who could spend part of their university courses in our countries. We’ll have an opportunity to meet Prime Minister Abe again to advocate a number of these principles which we’ve established in our partnership, because we’ll have to speak at the G8 and G20 [summits] and we’ll do so with a determination to support the priority of growth.
Finally, I invited Mr Abe to come to France when he considers it possible, to build on and continue this exceptional partnership. Thank you. (…)
Q. – As you recalled, a few months ago Japan embarked on a policy to revive growth, particularly based on a slight drop in the yen. I wanted to know to what extent these Japanese solutions can be transposed to France and crisis-hit Europe. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT – I think the question is addressed firstly to me. You could have asked Mr Abe whether what we’re doing in France can be transposed to Japan.
But our situations are different.
France is in the Euro Area, standing together with her partners, acting with them. Japan can take a sovereign decision on her monetary policy, under a number of conditions. The budget rules aren’t the same, either. To my knowledge, there’s no Asian Commission that comes and checks the state of Japan’s budget deficit. So in this context, everyone must conduct what they think is the best economic policy.
And where we, Prime Minister Abe and I, agree is that this economic policy should be focused on growth. How? By having a monetary policy that can be related to the real economy.
Also by having structural reforms that improve competitiveness. And finally, by having a fiscal policy which doesn’t aggravate austerity and which, at the same time, restores the public finances. I’d like Japan’s policy to succeed. Why? Because this will be positive for Europe; it’s already positive for Europe.
What is the keyword if we want to get our economies to pick up again? It’s confidence – whether confidence returns to the markets, which is already the case in Europe with regard to the Euro Area. But I’m talking about confidence for the future, confidence for growth. If confidence returns, there will be greater investment and consumption will also be stimulated. So we’ll have more trade, especially if, at the same time, we open up a number of trade negotiations based on reciprocity.
The fact that a country such as Japan decides to shake off deflation, which has long hampered it, is good news for Europe. But Japan ought to have good news, too, from Europe; I want to bring her some. I’ve mentioned Euro Area stability, a drop in interest rates, fiscal trajectories which have been adjusted in order not to aggravate, in certain countries, the recession.
And we’re determined, with Germany in particular, to implement a youth employment plan. These are the positions we’re also going to be upholding at the G8 to create more growth and more confidence. (...)
FRANCE/JAPAN/SYRIA/MISSING FRENCH JOURNALISTS
Q. – You stated clearly that France and Japan see eye to eye when it comes to international relations. On Syria, what message can you give Bashar al-Assad jointly today, at a time when the use of chemical gas has been proven in Syria? (...) There are reports this morning of two French journalists having been kidnapped in Syria. Can you confirm this? What information do you have today?
THE PRESIDENT – Yes, I thank the Japanese government, because together we have the same approach on Syria. We were the first to provide humanitarian assistance. We were also the first to recognize the opposition as the Syrian people’s legitimate representative. And today, Japan and France are working to find a political solution, but we’re perfectly aware of the context today in which this is taking place. And I myself have taken steps to enable us to exert military pressure through an agreement, reached at European level, for a partial lifting of the embargo, on certain conditions.
But you ask me about two compatriots, two journalists, reportedly kidnapped in Syria while they were doing their job. The press must be able to move around Syria to provide information which is expected throughout the world, about what’s going on in Syria. Contact has indeed been lost with these two journalists, without us yet knowing the exact circumstances. I won’t give any information which could put them in any more danger. But I ask for these journalists to be immediately released, because they don’t represent any state, they’re men who work so the world can get information.
The journalists must be treated as journalists, and in no way as elements on which a threat could be exerted with the purpose of intervening or acting to the detriment of a state. (...)./.