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Official speeches and statements - August 7, 2020

Published on August 7, 2020

1. Belarus - Joint statement by the Weimar Triangle foreign ministers on the eve of presidential elections in Belarus (Paris, 07/08/2020)

We, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of France, Germany and Poland, observe the ongoing developments in Belarus with great concern. On the eve of the presidential elections, we firmly stand by the right of Belarusian people to exercise their fundamental freedoms, including electoral rights, and support the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus.

Hence, we are concerned that neither OSCE ODIHR, nor OSCE PA or PACE were given the opportunity to observe the electoral process. Therefore, we urge Belarusian authorities to conduct the upcoming presidential election in a free and fair manner, including ensuring independent monitoring by local observers. We have taken note of worrying reports of electoral irregularities during early voting.

Belarus is an important neighbour of the European Union and an active member of the Eastern Partnership. Our relations in the last decade have been marked by a difficult but promising dialogue and practical cooperation. We believe in building stronger ties between Belarus and its people and the European Union that are based on the respect of common democratic values, including civil liberties and the rule of law.

A lot has been already achieved thanks to joint efforts. We express concern that our common achievements be not thwarted. We call on the Belarusian leadership to release all prisoners detained on political grounds, refrain from violence or any activity directed against human rights, including civic and political freedoms, and to respect the will of the Belarusian people. There is no other way to the strengthening of the Belarusian independence than through a genuine and inclusive social dialogue./.

2. Foreign trade - Foreign trade results in the first half of 2020 - Press release issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (Paris, 07/08/2020)

The COVID-19 epidemic has caused an unprecedented decline in global business and trade. Like most of our international partners, France suffered a significant deterioration in its trade deficit in goods in the first half of 2020, which stood at 34 billion euros, compared to 29 billion euros in the first half of 2019 - a direct result of this exceptionally unfavourable situation.

Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, gave the following response:

"Unfortunately these figures are no surprise, given the exceptional scale of the crisis we’re going through. They give an idea of the energy we’ll have to put into reconquering international markets and returning to the positive trend we began in 2017, under the President’s impetus. This will be central to my activity, in liaison with the regions, businesses and all those involved in foreign trade."

According to the Directorate General of Customs our goods exports, for example, are down by 21.5% compared to the first half of 2019 - a greater decrease than the one experienced in the first half of 2009, at the height of the financial crisis (down 20.8%). This fall is only partially offset by the decline in our imports (down 17.6%).

During the first half of 2020, our trade in goods gradually deteriorated as the COVID-19 pandemic developed, with every region of the world: first China, then Europe and, more belatedly, the United States. Our trade with our European partners, however, has shown signs of improvement since May, and our exports to them are holding out better (down 17%) than to third countries (down 25.6%).

All categories of goods are affected by the decrease in trade, except for pharmaceutical products (exports up by 10.1% and imports by 16.6%). The aerospace and automotive sectors are especially affected by the fall in exports (down 47.2% and 38.1% respectively from the first half of 2019), while agrifood exports are withstanding relatively well (down 4.9%), particularly thanks to an increase in exports of agricultural products (up 5.1%).

The energy bill has decreased markedly (15 billion euros compared to 23.6 billion euros in the first half of 2019), due to a significant decline in imports of energy products including gas and oil (down 41%).

According to the Banque de France, our trade in services remains slightly in surplus, with a balance of 2.4 billion euros compared to 11.7 billion euros in the first half of 2019, despite a net decline in exports (down 15.4%), more pronounced than in imports (down 9.2%). This decline is linked in particular to the trade in international-tourism-related services falling by half.

The prospects for the second half of the year and for 2021 remain uncertain and will depend on how the epidemic develops, on the situation with a recovery in global business and also on changing trade tensions and protectionist risks. International organizations are predicting a slowdown in global trade of the order of 10% in 2020, followed by a rebound in 2021, which would nevertheless not be sufficient to restore the pre-crisis level of trade.

Under the emergency plan rolled out in March, the Government very quickly introduced exceptional measures for export companies. For example, they enjoyed enhanced support from Team France Export and export credit insurance mechanisms. They were also able to benefit from cross-cutting measures to support the economy and businesses’ cash flow (loans guaranteed by the State, partial activity, solidarity funds, postponement of or exemption from taxes and social security contributions, etc.). Specific support plans have also been put in place for some of the most export-driven sectors, particularly aerospace (15 billion euros), the automotive industry (8.5 billion euros) and tourism (18 billion euros).

Beyond these emergency measures, which have protected our export apparatus, we now need to help our businesses, particularly SMEs, return to the international markets and stay there.

Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, said:

"Part of the recovery plan prepared by the Government, which will be presented at the end of August, will include support for exports and address what regions and businesses need in order to operate on international markets again. We put together this export recovery plan in coordination with the regions and all those involved in supporting [businesses] internationally, with whom we have held four meetings in the Strategic Export Council, under Jean-Yves Le Drian’s chairmanship, since the crisis began.

"Making the recovery a success will require us to rediscover the winning spirit which has made our economy strong since 2017. We’ve got to stand on our own two feet, foreign trade and France’s attractiveness. We’ve got to improve our competitiveness and strengthen our positions on the export market, but we’ve also got to rethink our relationship with the international market, and be less naive and more demanding with our trading partners. We must combine a determination in international trade with coherent action to protect the planet, and the defence of our industrial and economic sovereignty. This is the key to protecting and developing our jobs."

These measures must allow us to return to the good foreign trade and economic attractiveness performance posted since 2017, as shown in 2019 by the improvement in our trade deficit in goods (down 5.1 billion euros) and increase in our exports (up 17.6 billion euros). At the end of March 2020, France had 130,000 exporters, the highest level for 19 years. In 2019, France was Europe’s most attractive destination in terms of foreign investment projects, overtaking the United Kingdom for the first time (EY Attractiveness Survey for France 2020). These encouraging results are the fruit of the Government’s action since 2017. The economic and fiscal reforms begun at the start of the five-year term have allowed us, among other things, to improve our cost competitiveness, which has risen 5.6% compared to [other] OECD countries since 2017. These efforts to promote our businesses’ competitiveness will be continued and expanded under the recovery plan for our economy which will be presented in the Council of Ministers’ meeting on 25 August 2020./.

3. United Nations - Linkages of counterterrorism and transnational organized crime - Statement by the deputy permanent representative of France to the United Nations, chargée d’affaires a.i. at the Security Council (New York, 06/08/2020)

(Translation from French)

Madam President,

Allow me first to thank Mr. Voronkov and Ms. Ghada Waly for their very enlightening presentations. They have shown, if proof were needed, that, more than a year after the adoption of resolution 2482 on the links between terrorism and organized crime, much remains to be done to overcome those two scourges, which are linked and mutually reinforcing. Today, there is undeniable overlap between criminal and terrorist groups, the nature and extent of which varies in different parts of the world. Both terrorism and organized crime often recruit from within the same populations, particularly in prisons where radicalization is a scourge. They use the same routes and often the same means of communication to carry out their activities, particularly on the Internet, with the use of the dark net.

Against terrorism and organized crime, France’s commitment is unfailing and our mobilization is on all fronts: from preventing radicalization to combating the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, for which we are proud to have launched with New Zealand the Christchurch Appeal, which already brings together some fifty countries and organizations with the major Internet companies.

One of our top priorities remains the fight against the financing of terrorism. The growing exploitation by terrorist groups of funds derived from criminal activities is well documented and the sources of funding are unfortunately numerous: kidnappings for ransom, the illicit trade in arms, oil and cultural property, drug trafficking, human trafficking and piracy.

Evil must be dealt with at the root, by drying up the sources of funding for terrorist organizations, which use all the contemporary tools at their disposal. Resolution 2462 on combating the financing of terrorism clearly identifies the risks posed by the links between terrorist financing and organized crime in different regions of the world and calls on States, in close cooperation with relevant regional organizations and the United Nations, to redouble their efforts to address them. On this basis, we need to adapt our legal and operational frameworks to improve the transparency of financial flows, strengthen information sharing and develop cooperation with the private sector.

International cooperation, between States and within the United Nations, is more necessary than ever... I am delighted to see Mr Voronkov and Mrs Waly gathered in the - virtual - gallery. Their joint presence shows the good - and essential - cooperation between UNODC and UNOCT. I would also like to commend here the essential work of Interpol in promoting information exchange and enhancing trust between operational partners. Interpol’s databases and other tools need to be used more by States.

Madam President,

I would like to conclude by recalling that the fight against terrorism, as well as the fight against organized crime, must be conducted in full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and international humanitarian law. The fight against impunity is a priority. Those who have committed atrocities abroad must never, wherever they go, be allowed to go unpunished. In this regard, cooperation between intelligence services and judicial authorities is essential to neutralize the threat and to deliver justice. Thank you./.