Emmanuel Macron: "We are not in a position yet to conclude the Mercosur-EU agreement"
A few hours before his arrival in Buenos Aires for the G20 Summit , French president Emmanuel Macron answered a series of questions sent by LA NACION, related to complex issues of international relations and trade with the region ( "We are not in a position yet to sign the agreement with Mercosur") and Argentina in particular.
He stressed the importance of "not hiding the seriousness of the international situation," when referring to conflicts such as the US-China trade war, and criticized President Donald Trump for taking "decisions against his allies".
Macron also admitted that the conditions are not yet favourable to conclude the negotiations between the European Union (EU) and Mercosur , on which France has raised concerns, particularly for agricultural issues. He expressed strong support for the measures taken by the Macri government in Argentina and said that he is convinced that Argentina "will strengthen the confidence of investors", but stressed the importance of maintaining the course through "dialogue".
Macron also admitted that the conditions are not yet favourable to conclude the negotiations between the European Union (EU) and Mercosur , on which France has raised concerns
Macron also acknowledged the concern raised by the triumph of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and the effect that it may have on relations between regional blocs. However, the French leader said he is optimistic on the outcome of the G-20 summit, although he stressed the need to promote multilateralism.
-This is you first visit to the region and there are several pending issues in the relations, both between France and Argentina and at a regional level. What are the priorities in the relationship with Argentina?
-The dialogue between France and Latin America is based on a historical relationship, which I wish to reinforce. Since my election in May 2017 I met in Paris with about ten heads of state of the region, including Macri, last January, with whom I am very happy to meet again. This historical relationship has a particular resonance between France and Argentina. We share many passions: culture, a way living and also ... football! At a time when the great global challenges demand a collective and effective response, Europe and Latin America are natural partners, because our relationship is founded on the basis of common values. The reform of the multilateral system, the fight against inequality, the promotion of an ambitious international agenda to protect biodiversity and fight against climate change are some of the many issues on which France and Latin America speak with the same voice. These are the issues that I will address with Macri, without forgetting the great political, economic and cultural cooperation that structure the Franco-Argentine relationship. We are solving certain difficulties inherited from the past. We have launched new alliances. We have talked about the situation in Latin America, and especially about the crisis in Venezuela. Of course, in our meeting in Buenos Aires we will have the opportunity to evoke the agenda of the G-20 Summit .
-How do you rate the economic reforms of the Macri government? Do you think that Argentina is now a reliable country for foreign investment, particularly French and European?
-I have a positive opinion about the economic reforms that the Macri government is implementing. He decided not to take the easy road and wants to transform the Argentine economy in depth. I am thinking, for example, of the energy sector: access to energy was profoundly unequal; the government of Macri wants to clean up this sector and make it economically sustainable. However, such transformations are unpopular, especially in the beginning, when the costs are visible ante the results not tangible yet. We must know how to stay on course and implement these reforms through constant dialogue. Argentina suffered an economic shock at the beginning of the year. The IMF program allowed the markets to calm down. The objectives set are ambitious and involve making difficult decisions. The agreement with the IMF also includes measures to protect the most vulnerable sectors. It is a fundamental point. I am convinced that Argentina will know how to reinforce the confidence of investors, to rediscover the path towards a sustainable growth that will benefit all argentines. French investors are very present in Argentina, and will continue to be.
-The negotiations for Argentina to join the OECD have not finalized, although the support to our country was described as "unanimous" by the organization...
-France supports the adhesion of Argentina to the OECD, as I had the opportunity to tell Macri. The fact that the representatives of the main powers are in Buenos Aires underscores the place Argentina has in the heart of world governance. However, there is a blockage in the process, linked to the reluctance of the United States with towards European candidates. We are trying to solve this difficulty.
-What does France expect from the G-20 summit? Argentina aspires to a joint declaration, although the international reality has become more complex, particularly due to the position of the United States. Do you think it is possible to achieve it?
- I will not hide the seriousness of the situation. What is at risk is the blockage of multilateral forums such as the G-20, around the two biggest challenges in the world today, which are also the main points of tension: climate and trade. Last year, we reached agreements. In terms of climate, we achieved an essential achievement: despite the exit of the United States from the Paris Agreement, the other members of the G-20 have confirmed their adherence to this common framework. We must use this forum to demonstrate the ambition of all those who want not only to preserve the Paris Agreement, but also to go further, specifying or reinforcing their climate commitments. In terms of trade, the risk is a weakening of the WTO, which despite its shortcomings is the largest platform for regulating world trade. The risk is a face-to-face meeting between China and the United States, and a commercial war that would be destructive for all, especially for the middle and popular classes in our countries. The EU, together with other partners, made concrete proposals for the modernization of the WTO. I hope that this G-20 can provide support for these proposals to become a reality in the coming months. If we do not show concrete progress, our international meetings become useless and even counterproductive.
France is the European country that most resisted the trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU. At the beginning of the year, you expressed concern about some issues related to agricultural production. Do you think it is still possible to reach an understanding?
-I told Macri: France is in favor of a commercial agreement of mutual benefit between the EU and Mercosur. We have, as in Argentina, agricultural sensitivity, especially in the French beef sector. In many areas, progress was made in recent months, but we are not yet in a position to sign an agreement. We must also take into account the growing sensitivity of our societies to health concerns and the environment.
-In terms of the rise of regimes and populist leaders (the most recent one Jair Bolsonaro) What impact can it have on both bilateral relations and the discussions between Mercosur and the EU?
-I did not have the opportunity to meet Bolsonaro in person, but diplomatic contacts were established after the election. France maintains an important strategic alliance with Brazil and I hope that it will continue that way, within the framework of democratic values. This new political reality in Brazil raises strong concerns. It is likely to have repercussions on trade discussions between Mercosur and the EU. In any case, I am convinced that France and Argentina are on the same page in this sense and will favor a balanced agreement.
-You tried by all methods to dialogue with Donald Trump and everything seems to have failed. The same goes for other world leaders. How does the world compensate the vacuum left by the isolationism practiced by the US president? Can the relationship with the United States be saved?
-The alliance between France and the United States is historic. We have been allies for 250 years. This alliance is bigger than the people who embody it. From that point of view, I do not believe that this strategic relationship is in question. But it is true that the United States has taken some recent decisiones against the interests of its allies. In these situations, I always clearly affirmed the French and European positions. It is in these times of crisis that it is necessary to defend our common values. This is my position in Europe and also my ambition for the French presidency of the G-7 in 2019.
-Climate is one of the fundamental challenges facing the planet. The Paris Agreement is another victim of Trump's policy, and Bolsonaro seems to have the same position. What should the rest of the planet do in relation to the objectives of COP21?
-In the coming days the COP24 will begin in Poland, which aims to specify the rules of application of the Paris Agreement. For its correct implementation, these rules must be robust, clear and operative. The US administration decided to withdraw from the agreement, something we regret. But other American actors took up the torch. The implementation of the Paris Agreement is everyone's business. Since Trump's announcement, states, cities, the private sector and North American civil society have done so much in the fight against climate change. Whether due to hurricanes or fires, the United States is not immune to the devastating effects of climate dislocation. The IPCC report showed us that we must go beyond the goals we set ourselves: starting in 2020, countries should raise their ambition by presenting more ambitious contributions.
-A study published in Great Britain estimates that one out of four Europeans vote today for populist proposals. And that the number of Europeans governed by populists has multiplied tenfold in the last 20 years. You defend the idea of a Europe that is more united to avoid "that chaos". What was the response from your European partners?
-The nationalist phenomenon, because this is what it is about, is advancing in European societies and many others. Its engine is the inefficiency of our political systems and the debates and measures that people no longer understand. And it is the result of the anguish of the middle and popular classes in the face of a globalization - commercial, digital, migratory - whose benefits they not see. If effective protection is not provided, then we will have protectionism and withdrawal. It is the reason I defend a more united and more sovereign EU to face these great challenges. Who thinks, for example, that we can both finance innovation and ensure the regulation that the digital revolution needs at the scale of a single European country? That is why I fight in Europe with such determination. Awareness progresses: for example, when the EU was attacked by the US trade measures, it reacted immediately, in a united way. This would not have happened a few years ago.
-On March 29 the United Kingdom must leave the EU. How do you see the future of the block?
-The Brexit is a loss for the United Kingdom, but also for the EU. Our energy does not have to be absorbed by separation, but by union: the EU must become a power capable of providing its security, its defense, the control of its borders, its monetary sovereignty, its success in the digital economy and the ecological transition, its food security. It is with this ambition in mind that we must occupy ourselves day and night. With the United Kingdom at our side: as Theresa May says, she leaves the EU, but not Europe. In addition, Brexit made us aware of all that our union brings us, which consolidated the peace and freedom of our countries more than 70 years ago.