President Macron sums up key G7 issues as summit ends

President Macron made the statements during a press conference and a TV interview yesterday

President Emmanuel Macron has wrapped up the G7 summit in Biarritz, on topics including the “GAFA” digital tax, Amazon fires, Brexit, tensions between Donald Trump and China, and nuclear power in Iran.

President Macron spoke three times at the conclusion of the summit on Monday August 26, and hailed the event a success, before giving a television interview with journalist Anne-Sophie Lapix on TV network France 2 (below).

He also thanked all attendees, including representatives from the G7 countries, as well as those from African nations and business, and further international and regional delegates.

He summarised: “I want to emphasise the great unity and positive spirit that has come out of this G7. That does not mean that we miraculously agreed on everything, but there are many strong lines of agreement that have emerged, a situation that was not a given.

“That is what these events are for, and prove the usefulness of leaders meeting together.”

 

Digital tax and French wine

Mr Macron said that he had made “advances” on a potential agreement with US President Donald Trump over the controversial so-called “GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon)” tax, imposed by France on all digital companies with turnover on their online business of at least €750 million worldwide and €25 million in France.

Mr Trump has previously refuted the tax, and threatened to impose higher taxes on French wine imports to the USA in retaliation.

Mr Macron appeared conciliatory on the issue of French wine tax.

He said: “As long as there is no agreement, Trump does not want to say that he will not tax French wine. [But] it is difficult to see the link between digital taxation and import taxes. Two years ago, Trump wanted to tax Canadian wood. It didn’t decrease sales of wood but prices rose for consumers.

“Wine producers are worried, but the market has stayed stable despite higher prices. We are making peace. We must find an agreement on international taxation. This may not seem like enough, but it is important, as this is the first time that all seven [countries] are in agreement [on this].

“Digital companies are creating profound changes in our economies, and it is to be expected that we would take time to catch up. But if we do not, we risk seeing the development of inequalities [in taxation]. We have to rebuild.

"The world has never changed this quickly when it comes to economic and social organisation; but the world is also open and interconnected, so we must agree."

 

Brexit

Mr Macron said that Brexit was “not mentioned for one single second” during the G7, but he said that he was “ready for a no-deal”.

He said: “I do not want that, but we are ready. We have brought on more customs staff, vets...we will be supportive of fishing. We are preparing for the worst and we will be on the side of our regions.

“I will do everything to try to avoid a no-deal, but I will not weaken myself [at the level] of the British.”

Fires in the Amazon

In his latest words on the fires in the Amazon rainforest - especially in Brazil - Mr Macron stopped short of calling President Jair Bolsonaro “responsible [for the fires]”, but said that the controversial leader “supported projects that are contrary to the interests of the Amazon rainforest, including clearing land to grow crops such as soya.”

Mr Macron clashed with Mr Bolsonaro earlier this week, with the latter condemning Mr Macron as “colonialist” for attempting to discuss what the latter called “an international crisis” at the G7, at which Brazil was not present.

Mr Macron continued: “Europe imports a lot of soya. We therefore bear part of the responsibility. Mr Bolsonaro has not been clear about reforestation, but it is not only his responsibility, it is also ours. We have therefore given him a clear message: ‘It is your country, but the issue affects the entire Earth, and we cannot let you destroy everything, and we can help you to reforest’.

“This morning, with the Chilean president, we have released $20 million (€18 million) for all the countries that are burning, and we are putting in place at least $30 million (€27 million) to develop reforestation and agro-ecology, with the local governments, regions, and people.”

Yet, today (Tuesday August 27), it has been widely reported that the Brazilian government has rejected this money.

Mr Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, was reported by the Globo news website as saying: “Mr Macron cannot cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world's heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?"

Mr Lorenzoni was referring to the fire that took hold of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in April this year.

On the subject of tensions between Mr Bolsonaro and Mr Macron - especially following reported mocking of Brigitte Macron by Bolsonaro online, and sparring on social media, Mr Macron said: “The French people have given me a mandate to represent them, and I must be respectful of my counterparts.

“Not so for Bolsonaro. We must realise that the people are not their leaders. The Brazilians are a great people, but [Bolsonaro’s] attitude is not worthy of a leader. If I [behaved like that], the French people would be embarrassed. The Brazilians do not deserve this.”

Nuclear tensions in Iran

On the subject of nuclear tensions in Iran, Mr Macron also said there had been progress, with a meeting between Mr Trump and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani now a possibility in the “right circumstances”.

The Iran question had been debated by all seven G7 countries - France, the USA, Germany, the UK, Italy, Japan and Canada - across the summit, especially after the surprise arrival of the head of Iranian diplomacy, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The USA and China

On the growing commercial tensions between the USA and China, Mr Macron said: “A dialogue is between two sides, and China was not present. [Addressing this] was not the objective of the G7, but positive messages have come out of China this morning.”

He added: “On trade, we agreed - including with the USA - to say that we must manage commercial issues by changing the global organisation of trade. [Trump’s] approach does not produce many results, but creates much tension. So we have acted to share the problem. That is the work of our ministers in the next few months.”

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