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In 1999 and in the first trimester of 2000, France enjoyed relative stability on the political and economic fronts. President Chirac and Prime Minister Jospin are still firmly established as the nation's political leaders. The French economy maintained a relatively solid growth rate (around 3% for the whole period), with very low inflationary pressures. Job creation is still positive, even if the unemployment figures remain high, resting just below the 12% mark. Adding to this positive economic outlook, the French government has also been able to diminish its budget deficit, which stood at 1.8% of the Gross Domestic Product in 1999, compared to 2.7% in 1998.
Poor Countries' Debt
France's historic ties with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific give the French government additional incentives to discuss poor countries' plight in every Summit. France prides itself on being the most generous donor among G8 countries in terms of the ratio of development aid to the GDP and intends to keep this position in the future. Accordingly, the French government wants to pursue its effort at reducing the debt of the poorest countries, which is considered to be one of the most pressing problem in trying to promote development and reduce poverty. France has been very active in promoting the Cologne debt initiative and used its position as Chair of the Paris Club to do so. France wishes that all G7 countries go even further than what has been decided in Cologne, by erasing not only 90% of the bilateral commercial debts of the poorest countries eligible to Paris Club treatment, but 100%.
France is very likely to insist on pursuing further the discussions of the G8 Conference on Cyber Criminality, held in Paris from the May 15th to the 17th 2000. Ever since the Lyon Summit in 1996, France has been a leader in trying to curtail international cyber crime. As co-Chair of the Paris Conference with Japan, France again led the way in attempting to find common grounds between G8 countries concerning the international regulation of the internet.
In the domain of international finance, France seems particularly interested in discussing two main issues: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reform and the fight against international financial crime, like money laundering and “off-shore” fiscal paradises. Concerning the IMF, France has for long pledged for a permanent Ministerial Committee instead of the present Interim Committee in order to respond more adequately to international financial emergencies. This demand has partially been met with the creation of the International Monetary and Financial Committee in September of 1999. Transparency should also be increased to ensure better control over capital movements, which can be very destabilising, like the 1997 Asian Crisis and its contagion to other parts of the world have shown. Political accountability should also be increased within the International Financial Institutions (IFIs). Concerning international financial crime, France will build on the progress made on cyber criminality to push for better multilateral control over this major problem. But more than just financial crimes, France also wants terrorism and drug trafficking to be at the center of the Okinawa discussions.
According to official reports emanating from the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Presidency, France is also likely to insist on the impact of the information technology on the “real” economy, on population aging in industrial countries, health, the environment and nuclear and environmental security.
Report by Sébastien Dallaire
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