Clear differences between France and America persist, French minister said

PARIS – As global finance leaders gather for the International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings in Washington this week, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire made clear that there is an effective French-American cooperation. Overhaul of the international tax system China could not hide differences on other issues.

“The United States wants to confront China. The EU wants to contain China,” Mr Le Maire, a close aide of French President Emmanuel Macron, said in an extensive interview ahead of the meetings. This was natural, he said, because the United States is the world’s leading power and did not want “China to become the world’s first superpower in a few years or a few decades.”

In contrast, Europe’s strategic priority is independence, “which means being able to build greater capacity on defence, defending its own perspective on the fight against climate change, protecting its own economic interests, leading Getting access to technologies and not relying too heavily on American technologies,” he said.

His remarks reflect unresolved tensions that surfaced last month fierce disagreement Between France and the United States over President Biden’s decision to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. The deal replaced an earlier French contract to sell conventional submarines to Australia. Mr Macron not told of Australia’s plans until the last moment.

“Clearly there has been at least one significant misunderstanding between France and the United States, and I would say there has been abuse from the US administration as well,” Mr. Le Maire said.

He added that the key question now for the EU is “to be independent of the United States, to be able to defend its own interests, whether economic or strategic interests.” Still, he said, the United States remains “our closest ally” in terms of values, economic models, respect for the rule of law, and the embrace of freedom.

But with China, he said, “we do not share the same values ​​or economic model.”

France and the United States are trying repair damage The submarine deal, and the French ambassador, who was recalled to Paris in protest, has returned to Washington. Mr Macron, who will meet Mr Biden this month, wants to see a greater US commitment to independent European defense ambitions, which he says will complement NATO, as well as proof of US respect for European strategic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific. Will happen. Area.

Asked whether differences over China meant an inevitable divergence between the United States and Europe, Mr. Le Maire said, “It can happen if we are not vigilant.” But every effort must be made to avoid this, which means “recognizing Europe as one of the world’s three superpowers for the 21st century,” along with the United States and China.

One area where Europe and the United States are working in lockstep is on financial reform. Efforts to suppress the most sweeping change to the international tax system in a century are close to a success.

Finance ministers from the Group of 20 largest economies are expected to endorse a deal at IMF meetings as early as Wednesday, following a landmark deal last week by nearly 140 countries to create a 15 percent global minimum corporate tax and new rules. Which will force corporates and technology giants like Amazon and Facebook to pay their fair share of tax wherever they operate.

The agreement, aimed at cracking down on the tax haven that has depleted countries with much-needed revenue, follows months of negotiations that included intense behind-the-scenes lobbying by Mr. Le Maire and US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. Is.

Mr Le Maire said he “has done a great job with Janet Yellen on many key issues,” and is determined to improve relations between the two countries. “But it is also up to the United States to take some decisions in the right direction to restore trust between the two continents and the two countries.”

One of the biggest points of contention is over metal tariffs that former President Donald J. Trump imposed globally in 2018. Officer face difficult conversations in the coming weeks. Europeans plan to impose retaliatory tariffs on a range of American products until Mr Biden rolls back a 25 percent duty on European steel and a 10 percent tax on aluminum.

“If we want to improve bilateral economic relations between the continents, the first step must be for the United States to lift sanctions on steel and aluminum,” Mr. Le Maire said. “We are fed up with the trade war. “It is clearly not in the interest of the United States and not in the interest of the European Union”

Improving economic stability is critical in the wake of the pandemic. Mr Le Maire has overseen a massive aid program to lift France out of a historic recession that includes generous state funding to prevent mass layoffs, struggles to pay wages and their bills Relief for doing business.

have support being injured now As the economy stabilizes amid widespread vaccination. The economy is expected to grow 6.25 percent this year, while unemployment, a political lightning rod six months before the presidential election, is projected to fall to 7.6 percent by the end of the year, the lowest in a decade.

The rebound is significant as France prepares for its election in April. Mr Le Maire said he was launching a political movement in support of President Macron’s re-election.

The far right is posing a formidable challenge: Eric Zemor, An author and TV celebrity known for his anti-immigrant nationalism, insecurities over immigration in political elections and fears of rising economic inequality from globalization benefit from fears.

“Extremist parties are emerging everywhere in Europe and in the West because many people fear what is happening because of climate change, because of the technological revolution, because of the significant moves of migration,” Mr. Le Maire said. “The best way to fight against extremist parties is to get results,” he said.

But in a country where the yellow vest protest movement ran for several months, beginning in 2018, Mr Le Maire acknowledged that the frustration that fueled the mass protests could flare up again in France and spread to other European countries. if the inequality gets worse. Governments try to tackle climate change by shifting from cheaper fuels to renewable energy sources.

With the price of energy needed to drive that transition to record highs, “climate change remains a risk to all of us, to all democracies, because it will be very expensive – far more expensive than expected,” said Mr. Le Maire. he said.

“I really think that a new Yellow Vest movement is possible everywhere within Europe,” he said. It will be important to secure a global tax deal to help governments avoid it by bringing in a significant source of new revenue to reduce the divide in inequality, he said.

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