Press Conference Given by the President of the French Republic
Jacques Chirac, President, France
Lyon, France, 28 June 1996
Good afternoon. Firstly, I would like to welcome all the foreign and, indeed, the French journalists here, and thank you for coming and for the attention with which you are following this G7 in Lyons. I would also like to thank everyone who has organised this event. It is difficult, and up until now I think things have gone very smoothly. I would like to express my gratitude, in particular, to the people of Lyons who have agreed to put up with the constraints involved with holding such a conference and I would like to say how grateful I am to Mr Raymond Barre, the former Prime Minister who is Mayor of Lyons, who made a decisive contribution to the organisation of this summit. I have no intention of making a lengthy statement, you are always perfectly well informed about what is going on and you have received the document which was adopted at the end of the morning by the Plenary Session, that is, the Economic Communiqué. Yesterday evening we had a dinner, the aim of which was to decide on a communiqué on our very firm condemnation of terrorism, which unfortunately is a highly topical subject. This morning we followed our normal agenda on the economic discussion. We have approved our Economic Communiqué and presently, this afternoon, I will be meeting Mr Chernomyrdin who is replacing Mr Yeltsin, before we then resume our work among the eight of us at 5:00pm. Now I am prepared to answer any questions you may wish to put.
Q: TASS of Russia. Mr President, is the next summit going to be a G8 summit, or a G7 summit again, in your opinion, and has today's G7 summit set out to send a message to that effect to the Russian president?
A: Well, you cannot really say whether there has been a G7 or a G8. There is the G7 which is an economic summit and then, as of five o'clock this afternoon, we shall have a meeting of the Eight. And you will see that at 5:00pm the symbol G7 will disappear and will give way to something along the lines of 'Meeting of the Eight'. It is perfectly natural that, when it comes to the major world problems, Russia should be a full-fledged member in our deliberations, just as it is legitimate for strictly economic and financial problems to be addressed by those countries and among those countries which are used to addressing such problems among themselves.
Q: Yesterday, with the other six, you condemned the Dhahran terrorist attack. You are going to go to Saudia Arabia next week, what can France do to combat terrorism and how can one distinguish between resistance movements and terrorism, the point you made at Sharm El Sheikh?
A: I would not make a distinction between resistance movements and terrorism. Terrorism today, when we are in a period of peace, is a barbaric initiative which must be condemned, and since there are people who continue to practise these actions, the main characteristic of which is cowardice, the countries concerned, that is, all countries, have to have the means of providing a very effective and, of course, legal approach to combatting terrorism and terrorists. I am not surprised that the Arab summit in Cairo, which has just finished, also voiced a very clear condemnation of terrorism. It was quite right to do so.
Q: Mr President, do you think that the French, who today saw further deterioration in the unemployment figures, who see companies relocating, have reason to be reassured by what was said at your meeting this morning?
A: I am struck by the fact that in the street in France, or indeed elsewhere, one hears people say, 'What's the point of meetings like this?' Let me tell you. France is a country which is a major exporter. We are the fourth largest exporter of goods and services in the world, and per capita we are the second biggest exporter in the world, immediately after Germany and ahead of Japan or the United States. We are a country where one Frenchman out of every four or five works for export. So, exports are a vital element of our activity, our development and our economic progress, and indeed our social progress. This is essential. Exports occur in a certain framework, a framework which today is increasingly international. It is not enough to say, 'I'm going to export.' In order to be able to export you have firstly to be competitive and you also have to have clearly defended your position on the international stage. So, from that point of view alone meetings like the G7, or the European Council in Florence, or any other major meeting which discusses these subjects are vital. Not from a theoretical point of view, but in practical terms, because they provide the framework for our exports. It is vital for the everyday life of French people for us to take given decisions at summits like this.
Q:In the text of the Communiqué the Seven want to deal with the link between trade and core labour standards, are you satisfied with that wording? Perhaps this does not go as far as you would have liked to have seen in the Communiqué?
A: There too, you know, there are certain traditions which have to be respected. When we talk of core labour standards, quite often it is a misunderstanding. There is the fact that some countries have wages or social security costs which are far lower than in other countries and, therefore, have enhanced competitiveness. We cannot fight that, we cannot condemn that. We may regret it, but this is only because some countries are at a stage of their historic development which leads them to have that kind of system. So the only thing we can do is facilitate the development of those countries, so that they have wages and social security costs which are beneficial to all their workers and are as close as possible to those of the more developed countries.
There is something else which is quite unrelated and which refers to certain practices which we should condemn both in terms of principles and morals. Everyone knows that there are places where forms of quasi slavery exist, where children are being exploited - there is no other word for it - where children are forced to work, or where prisoners perform forced labour. That is something that we cannot fail to condemn, in the name of morality and in respect of the right to work. That is what we were talking about today, I would not want there to be a misunderstanding here. Our idea, which was accepted, was to say that these subjects - child labour, prison labour - are the remit of the International Labour Office and always have been. But what happens? The International Labour Office notes these situations and condemns them, but unfortunately there are no consequences. Our approach is therefore to say that now we have the World Trade Organisation, which will be meeting for the first time in Singapore before the end of the year, these problems of non-respect of people's right to work need to be studied, not only by the International Labour Office but also by the World Trade Organisation, so that, if necessary, the World Trade Organisation can take steps to put an end to these morally unacceptable practices.
Q: Mr President, it was said that on the eve of this summit you sent out your special envoys. Why did you send out special envoys?
A: Because thus far G7 meetings have taken place among ourselves, with the Russians, in part, while the others waited or took note. Well, we are talking about world issues. Today it was economic problems, tomorrow it will be problems of society, which in reality are of concern to the whole world. So I took a new initiative -and I trust that it will be followed up - which consisted of contacting the heads of state and government of the whole world to find out what they think. In four or five cases I sent special envoys to find out how they see matters, so that I could get feedback on their views concerning various issues on the summit agenda. Since I could not send special envoys out to everybody, I sent a French ambassador instead, but with exactly the same mission - to inform and to gather reactions - and I must say that this has turned out to be a very useful procedure. I have been able to give the G7 a summary account of the reactions of most of the countries, particularly the countries of the south.
I might add that in conformity with tradition I also contacted the representatives of the world's trade union organisations for a working meeting a few days ago, which enabled me to indicate to my colleagues of the G7 what the reactions of the trade unions have been, particularly as concerns globalisation.
Very briefly, if you ask me what conclusions I have drawn from these consultations, both in terms of the trade union organisations and the countries of the world, particularly the southern countries, I have gathered that everybody agrees that globalisation is both inevitable and desirable as a potential generator of wealth. However, very many heads of state and government and trade union leaders have expressed considerable concern about the risks involved in globalisation if it is not properly controlled, particularly in terms of exclusion, both inside countries, for workers who are unable to keep up with the pace, and internationally, for countries which are also unable to keep up. I raised this subject with my colleagues and I was impelled to choose as a subject for the summit, as far as globalisation is concerned, 'globalisation for the benefit of all'.
Q: Mr President, I am Raymond Lloyd from Freedom House in New York. Among the seven heads of state and government who have gathered in Lyons it is probable that by the year 2000 you will be the only one left. Over the next five years do you expect that these meetings will develop from economic summits for the wealthy industrialised countries and become instead a summit meeting of democratic countries. France, in particular, which now has a president who speaks English just as well as many of us Anglo Saxons...
JC: That's a very optimistic view of things!
Q: ...will France institute a genuine economic G8, that is to say, including Australia, at a forthcoming summit, in order to bring into the process not only the great democratic North Atlantic countries but also a great democratic country of the South Pacific. This would mean that for the Pacific area France, Canada, Australia, the United States and Japan would then be present.
A: Well, there are already a number that are members of the G7.
Let me begin by saying that I am very appreciative of your kind remarks about my English, but I am afraid they were a bit over the top. Secondly, let me also thank you for suggesting that I shall live as long as 2001, but once again it is very difficult for us to predict how things are going to turn out in the future.
As far as enlargement is concerned - because that is really what you are talking about, the enlargement of the G7, or the G8, to include major democratic countries and notably Australia - let me start by saying that originally the G7 was intended to concern itself with economic problems. Then that was extended to include the problems of society. And, of course, one can well imagine that other nations could be invited to join in. I am not at all against that. But there are other powers too, other economic powers and even sometimes democratic ones, which might also have a claim to membership of the G7. I am thinking of some of the Latin American or Asian countries. So I cannot quite see why we would want to give exclusive priority to Australia. It is an important power within its region, I am happy to acknowledge, but on the global scale there are many other powers which are at least as important and perhaps more so. For the moment, therefore, there is no prospect for an immediate enlargement of the G7 or G8, but if it were to arise I would not be opposed to it.
Q: Mr President, some have noted in what you were saying to President Clinton about the peace process a certain note of pessimism. Could we know what your feeling is about the peace process today following the change of government in Israel and why you are pessimistic, if that really is the case.
A: Let me say that no one could describe me as pessimistic. First of all that is not in my nature, and secondly, because I talked to President Clinton about this in private, and I never say anything, any more than he does, about what is said privately. You are attributing an attitude to me which I would say is absolutely unfounded.
Having said that, there has indeed been a change of government in Israel. There was the Arab summit in Cairo, which was an important event, and we must earnestly hope that the peace process will be continued in conformity with the Oslo agreements and the Taba agreements.
Secondly, I do not think we should question anyone's good faith, and particularly not the good faith of the Israeli government. Because we do not yet know exactly what that government intends to do. So I think that there are no particular grounds for being either optimistic or pessimistic. The unanimous view expressed by the European Union at the Florence summit and, I think it may be said, the unanimous view taken by the G7 and the G8 - is that it is of utmost importance to continue the peace process in conformity with the previously concluded agreements.
Q: Mona Said, from Radio Orient / Television du Futur. During your talks with Mr Clinton, Mr President, did you talk about Lebanon and did you say anything about the Surveillance Committee, the monitoring initiative?
A: Well it is very rare that there is an international meeting in which I do not talk about Lebanon. I am very concerned about everything which happens in Lebanon and very concerned to ensure that we do everything we possibly can to ensure the return of Lebanon to the community of free independent and prosperous nations. I said to President Clinton that I was very attentive to these issues. I did not go much further than that because we did have other things to discuss, particularly the peace process, but I would emphasize that I am very attentive to everything that happens in Lebanon.
Q: Mr President, Jean-Marc Silvestre from TF1. I would like to come back to the economic issues. When one looks at the economic situation of the seven most industrialised countries in the world, the United States seems to be doing better at the moment in terms of growth and even in terms of employment than European countries. What do the European leaders think about that and why do they think this difference exists?
A: Well I think there is one thing that one can say at this stage and that is that the United States is a country which has created a lot of jobs. There are different views as to what exactly those jobs consist of, what the nature of those jobs is, and I discussed this some days ago when I had the meeting I just referred to with the international trade unions. I discussed this very matter with the president of AFLCIO. And as usually is the case the judgements one hears tend to be black and white. One must not forget that there are some jobs which have been created in the United States which are highly qualified and very well paid. At the same time there are others which are underqualified and underpaid, which we probably would not accept in the European model of society. But there is one point which I think is important to make. Over the past three or four years the United States has made an extraordinary effort to reduce its fiscal deficit. Unless I am very much mistaken, I think the United States has reduced its fiscal deficit from somewhere around 4.5% of GDP to somewhere around 1.6% of GDP. That is a considerable effort. It is difficult to get this message across, but I am quite convinced that there is a clear link between the capacity of a country to create jobs and the reduction of a country's fiscal deficit. And I am quite convinced that if the Americans had maintained the fiscal deficit that they had five years ago they would not be able to show such good progress on employment today.
Q: Mr President, is it possible to fight against terrorism which is both effective and consistent without retaliatory measures of a trade nature?
A: Well, it depends what you mean, I would not have thought that retaliatory measures concerning trade and economic matters were the best way of fighting terrorism. I mean, one has to look at these things on a case by case basis, but I would not have thought so. I do not think it is a very nice thing to hold peoples hostage.
Q: Mr President, Hervé Fabvre from the Voix du Nord. Could you tell us to what extent the work of the job summit in Lille actually influenced this particular summit and have you progressed on the 'third way' between European rigidity and American flexibility?
A: Well, I never talked about the 'third way', Other people invented that term and put it into my mouth, but I never actually said it myself. What my message in Lille was is that there is a European social model, and that European social model is based on three principles: protection against the accidents of life, three part dialogue as the engine of economic and social progress and a governmental responsibility to maintain the fabric of society. That is the European social model. And what I said was is I believe we basically cannot challenge that model. Now, when you listen to some people in America or Asia a lot of them say that that type of model is outdated and unrealistic these days. I do not share that view. I think that what I tried to get across in Lille was taken up very positively, because the American Secretary for Labour, Robert Reich, was I believe the first person to point out that people talk with a great deal of enthusiasm about globalisation and the opportunities of globalisation, but that this is quite contradictory to the anxieties of our society. I think that he talked about an 'anxious society'. So my conviction is that we can certainly control globalisation, and controlling globalisation means maintaining the European social model. I am not sure why people call it the 'third way', it is the European social model.
But things have progressed. They have progressed a great deal, because today in the G7 meeting, and you will read this in the Communiqué, more or less everyone considers that people have to be taken into account, that globalisation does exclude people from society and that we must therefore make sure that people have some kind of basic guarantee in society. I think that is an idea that is now coming to the fore. I mean, if you keep repeating your idea often enough eventually people will understand it.
Q: Mr President, in your discussions on terrorism was there specific mention of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and if so in what terms?
A: We have not yet referred to international problems. As far as terrorism is concerned, we have condemned terrorism and we have done so without designating any specific organisation or country which may be closely or more distantly involved with terrorism.
Q: Philippe Paroi from France 2. Last year, Mr President, you went to your first G7 summit in Halifax and we had an economic communiqué then as well. In the wishes expressed in that economic communiqué what in fact has developed ,what has moved on and what has led to positive progress which is reflected in the Lyons communiqué?
A: Well a lot of things have changed. A lot of things have moved forward since Halifax. First of all our approach to globalisation is, I think, today a much clearer and much more human based vision than it was a year ago. Our thinking about employment and particularly on the need to implement policies which give workers the opportunities of lifelong education has progressed. The notion of employability - I find the word absolutely hideous in French - and lifelong education is a good concept and has moved forward quite a lot.
As far as thinking about the economic and financial system internationally is concerned, this has moved forward as well. We devoted almost all of our lunch today to the international monetary system and what we said was that the system as it exists today was so enormous and so powerful that we had to take the necessary prudential measures to avoid catastrophes. The Mexican crisis comes to mind. We have decided to double the resources available. The IMF will have an enormous amount of money available, 125 billion dollars, to help overcome these crises. International flows which amount to billions and billions of dollars every day give you some idea of the extent of monetary flows and the dangers that they can represent for the world. Thinking on all these issues has moved forward. We have also moved forward on issues of trade, particularly on the issue that I referred to in the first question that I answered here this afternoon.
As far as North-South relations are concerned we have also taken a major step forward and I think this is very important. This concerns development aid. Development aid is a matter which is very topical at the moment and which will become more and more topical as globalisation moves forward. Globalisation means two things, as I have already said. The first is that people should be at the centre of the whole process - and this is the case in the European social model - but that we should also respect the laggards, countries that cannot keep up, and that means that development aid has to be improved and increased. Now, very much at France's initiative, we have a whole series of decisions which are extremely positive for developing countries - the decisions we have taken on debt, the decisions we have taken concerning the World Bank. The World Bank will devote 2.5 billion dollars, including 500 million immediately, to relieve the debt problem. We have decided to go beyond what have now been referred to as the Naples terms, in other words, beyond 67% in the Paris Club. It is very important that we have said that we could go beyond the 67% figure. Now, we have the Lyons terms, the fact that we have finally agreed on the replenishment of the resources of the IMF, so as to be able to finance ESAF. That is extraordinarily important for some countries. It is vital for them to ensure their further development. The decision that we have taken - and it was not an easy agreement to reach, particularly in view of the position taken by the American Congress - was to replenish IDA.
All this, I think, is extraordinarily positive, and all this, let us not forget, has immediate consequences on the lives of people throughout the world. This has an impact on the life of every country, because when developing countries are given the resources to invest, where do they buy their investment goods? They buy them in developed countries, of course.
So I think it is no longer possible to make a distinction between domestic policy and foreign policy. Even if the peoples in our countries, not only in France, tend to look more closely at domestic politics rather than foreign politics, I think it is wrong to encourage them to do so, because it will be less and less possible as the years go by to distinguish between domestic policies and foreign policies. If we wish to defend the interests of our peoples within their countries then we have to defend their interests internationally as well.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Source: Ministère des Affaires Etrangères de France