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Press Conference of François Mitterrand, President of France,
on the Conclusion of the 15th Summit of Industrialized Countries
July 16, 1989, Paris
The President: Ladies and gentlemen, good day. Now, it is the journalists who are going to express themselves. I believe I have spoken enough--more than I would have wished--but I am obligated to give you an account of a highly important and copious document.
You have heard, I think, this reading...not this reading but this summary.
You must have noted, as it went along, the points which interest you.
Therefore, I am not going to invent a new preamble, and, from this point on, I am going to ask you if you would be so kind as to put the questions of your choice.
Question: Mr. President, I would like to begin with Article 1, in which you say that the Summit of the Arch marks the beginning of a new cycle of summits. Would you please elaborate on that statement, comment on it for us? It is rather astonishing at first glance, since one never knows in advance whether one is beginning a new cycle.
The President: I will tell you about one decision and make one remark, a result of the work of the Seven. It is spelled out there in full, and I did not write that document. I simply signed it as a participant.
It is generally thought that we agreed to work for fifteen years, for a certain term. The cycle that began in 1982 corresponds with one of the longest periods of growth since World War II.
The first was that of Rambouillet, in 1975. So, 1975, 1982, 1989. Difficult to foresee, you are correct, but it seems to me that we have now entered a different period. One could say that, on the whole, the Summits are attaining the results they desired; note the concurrent achievements in the fight against inflation, in the fight for renewed growth, and in the organization of a minimum of--I would not say a full system of, but a minimum of--world monetary policies. Today, some progress and some threats may be noted at the same time, for example, on the topic of inflation. Inflation was first suppressed, and then it was not suppressed. Therefore, it seems that this is a period of achievements and of renewed responsibility. Certain shifts are appearing, with more of our attention and decisions being related to the environment, to the war against drugs. All of that is independent of the political resolutions which you already know about. And I believe that today the environmental and development dimensions are gaining a new meaning and growing enough so that one could consider that the Summits are taking a new direction.
The time devoted to debt and to development--debt being nothing more than a specific aspect of development--and the problem of the environment have never been the subject of as many conversations and so many decisions or declared intentions as they have been this time.
That is how I interpret the notion of the third period.
Question: Mr. President, how do you see East-West relations, particularly with the Soviet Union, after the Summit? How might they develop? Second question: what have the reactions of the Summit been to the letter sent by President Gorbachev?
The President: The Summit has not profoundly changed the nature of relations between the Soviet Union and the participants in the Summit. That wasn't the objective of the Summit.
Moreover, the letter that was sent to me, which I immediately communicated to the members of the Summit and which was also communicated very rapidly to the press, this letter does not call for a collective response. Our agenda was already extremely full, so there was therefore no response by the Summit of the Arch to Mr. Gorbachev. Nevertheless, I shall respond to him, nourished and inspired by the thoughts which I have heard, for we have talked about it nonetheless, especially when we were not in session.
We wanted to keep to our agenda. I will respond to President Gorbachev shortly, to be sure. As for the nature of the relations, it has not changed fundamentally, and various resolutions on East-West relations were communicated to you yesterday. We hope that the attempt at democratization in the Soviet Union succeeds. We salute the courage of that attempt. We are not charged with assuring success but, to the extent that we can, we shall contribute to it. But there are many aspects to the situation: economic, political, military and other serious advances must be made, especially in disarmament, before any general conclusions can be drawn. In any case, the mood of the powers gathered together during this Summit is entirely open to developing relations, to facilitating exchanges, to permitting an evolution that signifies greater freedom.
Question: Mr. President of the Republic, for the past fifty minutes or so we have heard the different points of the communiqué detailed. There were also, as you indicate, the political declarations which were released yesterday. Now I would like to ask you, if you would, to engage in a directly inverse exercise. If there were an element of this Summit which endures, what would it be, in your opinion?
The President: First of all, that is your job ... but I am quite willing to respond to your question, Since I know that our discussions usually lead to something constructive.
My personal impression is that what is noteworthy is a greater determination to safeguard the political achievements, as I just said to Mr. Fabra. From the start, economic policy has been of primary importance to these Summits--and I value that just as highly--therefore we have the call for greater coordination in the economic area. But it seems to me that the importance given to examining the problems of North-South relations and, particularly, of debt, stands out from the bulk of the proceedings. On the one hand, there is going to be some new money, for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are going to contribute significantly to the reduction of indebtedness and debt servicing; on the other hand, there are a multitude of concrete approaches, varying from case to case, such as for the Philippines or for Bangladesh. One could cite many other countries. Hence there is attention to and awareness of the problems of development and of the urgent need for decisions. Yesterday, it was even a matter of urgent food aid for a country like Poland. I definitely believe that the most advanced industrial nations have finally become aware of the problem of relations between the rich nations and the poor nations. And that will lead them to adopt common policies, whenever possible, to encourage specific efforts; for example, debt forgiveness, and readjustments and moratoria of all sorts, with the need for seeing not only the condition of the poorest nations but equally that of the so-called intermediate nations whose problems are not resolved easily or cannot be reduced to financial questions, and who also need guarantees of all sorts, to accompany exchanges.
The third observation is the sudden and considerable intrusion of environmental problems, to which a profusion of responses has been provided.
So there are three ideas.
The advanced industrialized countries want to consolidate the achievements; they are anxious about the fluctuations which do not always go in the right direction; they coordinate.
The problems of indebtedness and of North-South relations were directly addressed during our deliberations, and the environment is henceforth considered as a paramount human, economic, and political fact.
I would not want to forget the elements which you yourself noted, but I do not want to dilute my answer. In the same manner, the problems of drugs have been taken up.
Question: Mr. President, you recently stated that France was the champion of the poor. Some representatives of poor nations have also been in Paris this week.
Do you believe that you have succeeded in at least beginning a North-South dialogue, even if the idea of a Summit were refused?
The President: France does not claim to be the only champion and defender of the poor countries, but she means to take her place in defending the just interests of those people. Numerous issues arose relating to this, and I can tell you about some of them.
An increase in the shares of the International Monetary Fund and even a new amelioration of the special drawing rights--proposals of mine that caused some controversy in the United Nations--are still being examined by the administrative council of the International Monetary Fund. And in response to the question I posed, as I have just said, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be providing new funds.
I could continue the list--it is long--of all of the favorable responses which have been made to the questions which we asked. I have a list here, but in order not to weigh this conversation down, it will be furnished to you; it is a document which you will be sent.
At present, four countries have asked me to convince my colleagues to discuss their differing points of view in the forum of a conference, the outlines of which are not yet well defined. They had to be discussed first by our partners; it did not just happen all at once. Mr. Gandhi saw Mrs. Thatcher for a long time; others had lengthy discussions with us, Mr. Mubarak or Mr. Peres, Mr. Gandhi with President Bush... it did not come about like a miracle and by surprise.
Basically, I realize the obstacles and the arguments with regard to a kind of North-South conference, even a conference limited to a certain number of participants, of the Cancún type. But I still fully intend to follow this course and to convince those among us who might be reluctant. I myself know that such reluctance is altogether reasonable, when I consider that the ultimate failure of Cancún, which had been called before my accession to the Presidency of the Republic--that was the first large international meeting I participated in after my election in 1981--the failure was its lack of follow-through, which damaged the cause that it was meant to serve.
So it is necessary to be suspicious of any improvized or premature diplomatic meeting. And yet I mean to follow that course, about which I have talked to my colleagues.
Question: On that subject, Mr. President, "you have spoken to your colleagues about it," have you been able to ascertain whether some of them are beginning to believe in it? Are they any less reluctant?
The President: In a general way, one wishes to bring about a solution to the problem of development. It is a step which has been taken, and the practical arrangements, which you will hear about, are numerous and significant.
From there, the path leads to a conference which would take place within the group of existing institutions, the great international institutions; it is not a question of inventing a new institution, it is a question of a meeting.... I have said just now that this course would be followed, by myself in any case. Progress is being made, but it has not yet been attained.
Just now, I heard Mr. Bromberger speak of my 50 or 55 minutes. Believe me, I am the faithful interpreter of the Summit's labors, and still I have only summarized. I do not know if you are aware of my effort. No? It doesn't seem so. Well, anyway, yes, I have reduced, summarized, and perhaps even omitted some details which you might have found useful. You will excuse me. You can excuse me on this point, without which it would have been longer.
Question: Mr. President, now that the Summit is over, what do you think of those in France who have criticized the proximity of the Bicentennial and Summit festivities?
The President: Well, I already said, on a nationally televised broadcast 48 hours ago, that I thought that was bad news reporting. When there is poor reporting, who is to blame? Those who should have given better information or those who did not want to hear the explanations? I do not know; I am not there to determine responsibility. What is true is that when the Summit of industrialized countries was invited to Paris, invitations to the Bicentennial were sent out at the same time to a certain number of countries, but not as large a number as those who were here. We did not envision it so large. But very rapidly we saw that we would have to restrain the very flattering desire expressed by many countries to be present in France to celebrate this great event.
Thirty-five invitations were accepted or asked for and 34 were present. One should say 33 because Mr. Hillery, President of Ireland, only arrived during the ceremony... so 34, and one of the 35 who accepted was prevented from coming by domestic problems--that was Argentina.
There have been a number of protests in France, and demonstrations. The press has largely collaborated with them.... As for myself, I took that as it came... I am somewhat used to it. It is truly rare that an initiative is greeted by a chorus of hurrahs or bravos. It is very rare... It is just chance when too late the jeers turn into... bravos. But one notes that a certain number of things can be successful and useful.
Now, I do not think anything of it, I take things as they are. What counts for me is the result.
Twenty-one poor or middle-income countries were present in Paris. Some countries from Europe, like Ireland, Portugal, or Greece, not members of the Summit, joined us, as did the seven industrial nations--or, let us say, the six others. There was also the European Community. For two and a half days it was the Bicentennial, where all had the same attention paid to them and participated in the same demonstrations. After the afternoon of the 14th, the Summit began. There were thus several hours during which everything overlapped in the general hubbub, and after the morning of the 15th, there only remained the Summit of the Seven.
I believe that this conjunction was felt, by all the participants at least, to be useful, to be a good thing.
As for the opinion about having brought together some of the rich nations at the time of July 14th, which was the victory of the Third Estate, it is an observation that merits examination. But I cannot hold a grudge against the democratic countries who perhaps owe a part of their prosperity to their democracy.
I do not see why I should find fault with Great Britain and the United States of America who, even before France, started the movement in support of the Rights of Man, or Massachusetts, which traces in its state constitution some of the same great lines that are in ours, or rather, in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. In the name of what should they be discarded?
On one hand, the great industrial nations are great democracies; they have their place. On the other hand, all the nations of the Third World are not angelic democracies; they are poor and they want to aspire to prosperity. It is thus a very revolutionary phenomenon stated each time that it is produced of the great turnings in the history of humankind.... No, I am at ease with all and I was happy that they were all there.
Question: Mr. President, I would like to come back again to the political declaration concerning China. An official dispatch of the New China News Agency announced on July 11 that France had poured 83 million francs into the Chinese state.
What about that payment? Do you think it was in line with yesterday's political declaration concerning China?
The President: I was not informed of everything. It is not France who gave that money; it was given probably by a particular institution and certainly in implementation of earlier agreements. We have not decided to disregard contracts. So I cannot respond to you in any other way because I do not know any more about it. I simply heard it this morning on the radio, with a bit of surprise, and I should say a certain dissatisfaction. I reserve my comments for those involved in the matter.
Under the conditions I just mentioned to you, this is not scandalous. But the decisions that have been made in this area, that France has already taken, tend naturally to show some amount of caution--which will not have been illustrated by the payment in question. But I cannot talk on a matter about which I do not know enough.
Question: Mr. President, my question also has to do with China.
In the political declaration, the Seven said that they would want to see a delay in the World Bank loans to China.
Under what conditions would the Seven favor the Bank's extending those loans again?
The President: It wasn't stipulated. I think it would depend on the domestic changes within China.
We established a restrictive policy to show our disapproval of what happened there, but we have not yet decided on the moment at which that attitude could be changed by virtue of the domestic evolution of China.
I think that if the conditions which led to the delay in loans stay the same, that would not permit a return.
This will be discussed with the World Bank in the coming weeks.
Question: The 54 articles contained in the declaration concern much of the world, many of the countries of the world, especially the developing countries. To implement them, do you think that the international organizations can play their role fully, or must France, which now holds the Presidency of the Summit, maintain contact with all of those countries to apply those articles?
Secondly, do you think there will be regular consultations between developing countries and rich countries, before every Summit of the Seven?
The President: The nations that met at the Summit of the Arch have a certain influence on the large international institutions, since they contribute heavily to them. They could therefore let their positions be known directly, as they already have with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
I have just indicated, in the long document which I summarized, and not commented on, that on 7 or 8 extremely concrete points these great institutions will accomplish a certain number of positive acts, notably in the ways in which debt is treated, is reduced, is arranged, or in which new terms are prepared, that is to say to feed economic recovery of those nations with fresh funds.
It will be advisable to follow, to persevere, to continue along that route.
The political decisions which are made by the States or by the General Assembly and the specialized Agencies, important though they may be, should be in keeping with this political will.
It will thus be necessary to see that this political will is maintained and reinforced.
That is why I, as President of France, intend to follow my course of action:
1) so that there is no slackening
2) so that one may go further.
Question: During the Summit, you expressed very clearly your concerns about the problem of debt. You even declared the other day that Mexico was on the verge of a breakthrough and that a satisfactory outcome of the negotiations in New York would be one of your principal priorities here.
But the final declaration does not mention the negotiations, and there is no direct support for the New York negotiations.
I would like to know why, Mr. President, you are not afraid of creating, of generating, a phenomenon of general disappointment in Mexico and in Latin America?
The President: For now, it is the private banks who are negotiating their loans, and it is important to know the final position of the private banks before adding anything else. One cannot artificially separate the private banks and public assistance, in the sense that we know full well that if there is a more pronounced Mexican financial crash, the banks themselves will be victims and there will be a tendency, even in the most liberal countries--but that is a sweeping and purely personal statement--to return to the side of public power. So everything is on hold.
But we are in a delicate and sensitive phase, in which it is necessary to be extremely attentive. The discussion has been going on for several days, with highs and lows. Nothing should disrupt it. I still believe in its chances for success, without being able to prove it. I consider a settlement necessary, but by reason of the concomitance of meetings on the Mexican debt and the Summit meeting, any present intervention in this particular case (most important, but a particular case) would have been imprudent.
It is thus in the interest of Mexico that it was not judged necessary to adopt a text, in addition to the fact that from hour to hour that text would have become outdated. That is the reason; it is not a profound reason.
Question: We note the firm resolve of the participants in this 15th Summit to develop another type of cooperation with the developing nations, but we have seen that the more you develop those countries the more they remain underdeveloped.
Are you only applying this Gospel, preached some two hundred years ago by your missionaries, of...
The President: They were not mine!
Question: ..."to him who has nothing, one must give even that which he has not?"
The President: That is a very fine precept, but it is a moral precept and the moral has not yet been totally substituted for the political.
However, all the responsible people in the world who represent true civilizations know full well that moral obligations must, from one day to the next, merge with political obligations.
Thus, it is a very fine precept, but not suited to being implemented... You see the paradoxical turn taken precisely not by the missionaries but by their Master, their inspiration, Christ; namely, it is necessary to give even that which one does not have. It is a paradoxical form which says well what it means and which you have understood perfectly. It is indeed a very fine precept. That means that it is not necessary to measure the effort until there are people in distress. That is what I think.
It remains, of course, to create an international sentiment, conforming to the wishes you express.
Question: Mr. President, it was Mr. Bush's first Summit. Has the change of the man corresponded to a change of policy, in your opinion?
The President: You know, I am not going to indulge in extremely delicate comparisons and I do not wish to embarrass those of whom we speak.
A change of man necessarily means a change of approach. But not necessarily a change of policy. Otherwise, what else would it serve if the people were changed? ... if democracies, unlike monarchies, envisioned a term of office for all authorities, it is because it is good to change!
Thus I would not put myself in the position of comparisons with Mr. Reagan, whom I met eight times, that is, over eight years (it was my fourth Summit).
I would say that Mr. Bush shows a great deal of open-mindedness, a great deal of affability in personal relationships, a desire to achieve a good understanding among the countries gathered here; and this open-mindedness of Mr. Bush, who knows well the problems of Europe and the problems of the world by reason of his prior service, seems to me to be a very good sign.
Question: Mr. President, do you now consider that the membership in the Summits is totally satisfactory as is? Would it be advisable to enlarge it? If so, in what way?
The President: One can always improve. Even if you do not see how--by virtue, on the one hand, of the Bicentennial and, on the other hand, of the places in which in which the Summit took place, that is to say the Pyramid of the Louvre and the Arch, which are new monuments and which therefore attract curiosity. Inside these grand structures, the conditions of intimacy, of tranquility and of serenity were met. We worked well together, without ever being upset. That has not always been the case in the past.
Therefore, from that point of view, I am very satisfied at the turn taken by the Summits; in 1975, under the initiative of Mr. Giscard d'Estaing, it was precisely decided so that the world leaders who got together would know each other, and would know each other better.
And then, little by little, the presence of the press, ever more numerous--more than 6,000 journalists this time--the media effect, the interest, the passionate discussions, made it difficult to preserve the intimacy of direct relationships between the people. But I think that the aim has been corrected, for some years satisfactorily enough that one may judge in a perfectly acceptable way the manner in which it unfolds.
There is sometimes a temptation to become entangled in everything or to make decisions for everyone. But we have succeeded in overcoming it, and you will notice that each time there is a question of new initiatives, it is written: "the countries gathered at the Summit, and all other interested countries, are called to...."; that is to say, there is an overture by the members of the Summit to the absent countries that one wishes were present, if not in the Summits, then at least in the implementation of new policies, in which they would have the same right of proposals and initiative as we have. That is especially true for the environment.
Question: The letter which Mr. Gorbachev sent you shows well enough that he would like to be associated with the resolution of the grand affairs of the world. Does it seem conceivable to you that he might participate someday in a Summit such as the one that was just completed here at the Arch?
The President: The Soviet Union is a very large country which plays a considerable role in the world. It is one of the two greatest military powers on the planet, so its role is pre-eminent.
The countries that gather in the bosom of the Summit of the Seven are countries whose basic definition is democracy, furnished with adequate institutions, with democratic institutions.
If one of these countries should unhappily become--and this does not seem likely--a country which distances itself from democracy, it would no longer have its place in these Summits.
The countries which are evolving toward democracy have not yet defined the rules for a democratic existence to the same degree that we have defined ours through institutions and practice--since it is not what is written, it is what is done. Whatever the remarkable interest on the plane of political ethics which I have in the evolution of the Soviet Union, we are not all at the same point; we are not.
As for the value of the Economic Summits, since that is their name, it seems that a certain number of events should also take place so that the dialogue will be fruitful in these Summits. I am not speaking of dialogue throughout the year, which is quite necessary.
As for asking me a general question: "do you think that one day it might be possible?"... Of course. And I am not talking especially about Mr. Gorbachev; I am talking about his country, like other countries which must experience sufficient evolution, economic progress, and democratic progress for it to be possible.
A purely practical observation: the countries at the Summit used to be five; now they are seven. Too many countries would make it more difficult to exchange viewpoints, but in itself it is not an obstacle to the perspective which you have come to specify.
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