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Official speeches and statements - July 3, 2019

Published on July 3, 2019

1. European Union - Foreign trade / CETA / Mercosur - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Le (Paris - July 2, 2019)

Q - Why does France want to ratify CETA?

THE MINISTER - Because that trade agreement between the European Union and Canada promises many opportunities for our businesses and industries. And as the French President pledged during the presidential election campaign, it was subject to an independent assessment before being ratified. The National Assembly will examine it on 17 July. For too long, trade agreements have been negotiated on the quiet, without the public or members of Parliament being fully informed about them. So we’ve changed our approach.

CETA came into force provisionally in September 2017. We therefore increased our exports to Canada by 6.5% in 2018, and France’s trade surplus went from €50 million to €450 million. The assessment by the CEPII [Centre d’Etudes Prospectives et d’Informations Internationales], an independent research unit, shows that France and the European Union are going to see slightly excess growth, just like Canada. We’ll enjoy increased growth of €780 million a year by 2035.

Moreover, according to the same study, France’s CO2 emissions are not increasing because of CETA. When he was minister, Nicolas Hulot signed a partnership for the environment and the climate with his Canadian counterpart [Catherine McKenna]. We’ve decided to implement a climate veto which guarantees states sovereignty to legislate on the environment and social issues. No private investors will be able to challenge it. That’s important to specify, because I read that Nicolas Hulot expressed this fear in an article in the Journal du Dimanche on 30 June. It’s unfounded.

Q - In that same article, Nicolas Hulot calls for CETA to be rejected, specifying that Canada is one of the G20’s poor students in environmental terms...

THE MINISTER - On the contrary, unless we ratify CETA we’ll push the Canadians into the arms of the United States, which has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement and on which they’re already very dependent. That’s why the trade agreements we aspire to must promote fair trade, with declared social and environmental ambitions.

Nicolas Hulot is France’s most popular politician. When the French listen to you, you have a duty to be stringent and truthful. It’s not acceptable in an article to make assertions that don’t square with reality.

Q - What are you alluding to exactly?

THE MINISTER - When he says it’ll be possible for animals fed with animal meal to be exported to Europe, that’s not true. The import and consumption of meat produced using animal meal are and remain banned in Europe.

Q - Has he become a figure of opposition to the government?

THE MINISTER - The President wanted to overcome a number of conservative approaches. In the past two years, on the basis of sometimes different visions, we’ve managed to build an action plan that reconciles ecology and the economy. I’m true to that ambition.

Nicolas Hulot himself worked to establish this action plan on CETA, which was debated at the Council of Ministers’ meeting and presented collectively. It’s sad that he’s now changed his mind.

Q - Will Canadian shale gas not arrive in France?

THE MINISTER - I can confirm to you that the small amount of oil coming from Canada to France is conventional and that the infrastructure doesn’t exist to export shale gas to the EU.

Q - Is France, or Europe, currently renegotiating a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement 2.0?

THE MINISTER - There’s no question of that. We won’t negotiate any broad trade agreement with countries that have left the Paris Agreement. And the European Union has rallied to this position. We were a minority in Brussels when it came to opening negotiations on targeted industrial agreements. But in no way are we talking about negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement, which would affect our environmental and health standards, or our agriculture.

Q - If we follow your logic, signing the agreement with Mercosur will force Brazil to stop the deforestation of Amazonia and the use of pesticides banned in Europe...

THE MINISTER - This treaty with Mercosur, anchoring Brazil to the Paris Agreement, allows us ensure that that country is obliged to implement its commitments, which concern in particular halting deforestation and replanting [forests on] 12 million hectares. None of the products banned in Europe, like hormone-treated beef, will enter. The European Union will carry out audits and health checks on the ground. European consumers have the right to know what’s on their plate.

Q - Can France accept the agreement with Mercosur in the way it’s currently being presented?

THE MINISTER - A political agreement was reached. The text must now be finalized in the coming months. We’ll pay attention to the way a number of clauses are drawn up. For example, we’ve secured, for the first time, a safeguard clause on agricultural products: if a sector is destabilized, the European Union reserves the right to suspend imports.

The President set two other conditions: strict compliance with the Paris Agreement and with our environmental and health rules. We’ll also be commissioning an independent assessment of the agreement, to evaluate its impact on the climate and biodiversity.

Q - It took 20 years to negotiate this deal with Mercosur. Do these giant free trade treaties still reflect the spirit of our age, dominated by the climate emergency?

THE MINISTER - It’s not free trade agreements as such which cause degradation to A - the environment and the climate. We have no agreement with China and yet we’re invaded by products made in China, and therefore imported carbon. Free trade agreements exist to improve a number of partners in environmental, social and agricultural terms.

CETA has enabled 42 French protected geographical indications (PGIs) to be recognized. That’s a recognition of our agricultural system, based on quality and the regions. For its part, Mercosur is set to recognize nearly 360 PGIs throughout Europe. We’re thus spreading our standards to our partners around the world.

2. Hong Kong - Press briefing by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris - July 2, 2019)

Q. - Are you afraid of an escalation in Hong Kong following the clashes between tens of thousands of demonstrators and police on 1 July? What role are France and the EU playing to try to ease this crisis?

THE SPOKESPERSON - France and its European partners continue to closely follow current events in Hong Kong.

We reiterate our concern over the violence.

We call for the establishment of a sincere dialogue based on the "one country, two systems" policy, which guarantees respect for the rule of law and especially the autonomy and independence of the justice system, which are responsible for Hong Kong’s success and economic prosperity. (...)

3. Migration - France has been shouldering its responsibilities in the Mediterranean since the start of the migration crisis - Communiqué issued by the Ministry of the Interior (Paris - June 29, 2019)

For the record, the situation no longer bears any resemblance to how it was in the past. In 2016, 180,000 people from Libya disembarked in Italy. In 2018, there were no more than 23,000. This year we stand at 3,500 in the first six months of 2019 - i.e. a new reduction of 80% compared with the same period last year. The number of deaths at sea has also gone down, but it is still, unfortunately, too high (nearly 600 people missing in the Mediterranean in 2019, compared to more than 5,000 in 2016).

It is wrong to say the EU has not shown Italy solidarity in this context. Nearly 13,000 migrants in need of protection who arrived in Italy in 2016-2017 were received in other European countries, including France, in a period when Italy had opted for close cooperation with its European partners. Since 2015, the EU has paid Italy €951 million to support security and border management (€435 million), as well as asylum, immigration and integration (€516 million). At the height of the crisis, hundreds of EU personnel were deployed on the ground to support the Italian authorities (322 officers from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex; 216 from the European Asylum Support Office, EASO; and 27 from Europol in 2017). Together we have worked on solutions to reduce the number of departures from Libya, by working with the countries of origin and transit as well as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

France has also made an unprecedented commitment to resettle 10,000 refugees between 2017 and 2019 straight from their places of transit, to prevent them risking their lives on dangerous journeys. Nearly 8,000 have already arrived in our country. We are actively showing solidarity.

Now that the migration crisis has drastically diminished in scale with the implementation of these measures, the current Italian government is opting for solutions without consulting its European partners, while criticizing Europe and its member states for a lack of solidarity. It has therefore announced the closing of its ports, in violation of the international law of the sea, while people rescued at sea continue to disembark in Italy, due to the presence of NGO vessels as much as Italian coastguard vessels.

Against such a background, Italy still needs this European solidarity which it is nonetheless criticizing. For example, over the past few months, in cooperation with other member states and under European coordination, France has already taken in nearly 400 people in need of protection who disembarked in Italy and Malta.

Regarding Sea-Watch 3, Christophe Castaner responded to the coordination effort the European Commission set in train at the beginning of the week by saying that France was prepared to take in 10 people in need of protection who disembarked from Sea-Watch 3, along with several other European partners who made similar pledges. Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero welcomed this commitment.

With Sea-Watch 3 entering the port of Lampedusa last night, France is once again prepared to deploy within the next few days, as it has already done several times over the past year, a mission from the Interior Ministry and the Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) to identify 10 people in need of protection who could be transferred immediately to our country.

France will continue its efforts in solidarity with the Italian people to take in people in need of protection. Christophe Castaner also calls once again on all his European counterparts to establish a permanent solidarity mechanism to ensure that people rescued at sea can disembark swiftly and safely at the nearest safe port, in the framework of a predictable, reliable European system which complies with international law.

This in no way detracts from the need to continue our efforts jointly in order to combat illegal immigration together and reform our asylum policy. This is the plan to overhaul Schengen which the President has formulated and which Christophe Castaner will promote in the coming months.

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