Don’t turn your backs on euro, Fillon pleads

by Masami Ito

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon urged Japanese firms and investors Friday not to turn their backs on the euro despite the recent financial crisis triggered by Greece’s debt meltdown.

During a two-day visit to Tokyo, the prime minister gave a speech hosted by the French Embassy at a hotel in Minato Ward, where he stressed that the current euro crisis was not caused by the weakness of the single currency but triggered by bad management of public finances.

“It is true that the eurozone has just come through the most testing crisis in its history,” Fillon said.

“But does this crisis stem from inherent weakness in the single currency? Absolutely not, since this is a classic sovereign debt crisis, linked to poor public finance management and following close on the heels of a financial crisis the likes of which can be found throughout history,” he said.

Fillon stressed that Japan benefits from the euro by being able to buy or sell in all eurozone member states without any exchange rate risks.

“This is not a time for Japan to turn away from the euro,” Fillon said. “Economically, your country benefits a great deal more from the European Union and the euro than it would have if Europe had remained a cluster of 27 separate markets, each with its own currency, rules and national customs protection.”

The prime minister pointed out that there were some 400 Japanese companies currently in France, including Toyota and Sony, and expressed appreciation for providing employment and developing the local economy. Fillon added that his country was “open” to the idea of Japan concluding a free-trade pact with the EU, but not before Japan lowers its nontariff barriers.

“European exports to Japan still face too many nontariff barriers,” Fillon said, mentioning examples such as health standards in the food-processing industry and procedures related to medicines and vaccines “that differ noticeably from international standards.”

“We are convinced that the Japanese, not only as consumers, but also as taxpayers and industrial partners, will be all the better off for it,” Fillon said.

Later Friday, Fillon held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Naoto Kan, where they agreed to cooperate in managing both economic growth and fiscal consolidation and held concrete discussions on bilateral cooperation of nuclear energy.