SINGAPORE â€” French President Francois Hollande said Monday that European countries can fight protectionism in trade and other forms by standing united and reaching out to Asia.
Speaking at a lecture in Singapore, where he is on a two-day state visit, Hollande singled out the government of President Donald Trump.
“The U.S. again made a number of decisions and made some choices that will have an impact on its own economy and on the rest of the world,” Hollande said, addressing the audience in French.
“We must explain what the closing of borders is all about, what building a wall, what unfair and migratory policies mean. It cannot be the strengthening of a nation at the detriment of (others),” he said. “It is indeed a battle, to a large extent a political battle, but we have a lot of arguments to win.”
In March, the world’s top economic powers dropped a pledge to fully oppose trade protectionism at the Group of 20 meeting in Germany, amid pushback from the U.S. government.
A statement issued by the group said that countries “are working to strengthen the contribution of trade” to their economies. By comparison, last year’s meeting called on them to resist “all forms” of protectionism.
Hollande said Monday that “temptation” of an inward approach “could hit big countries, big democracies. It could exist in entire continents.”
To counter that, “countries must sign trade agreements, which we did, between Europe and Singapore and between Europe and ASEAN,” he said. ASEAN, short for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a 10-nation bloc that operates by consensus.
France and Singapore signed a Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership in 2012 to strengthen ties in areas such as trade and investment, defence and space technology.
On Monday, the two countries pledged to ramp up collaboration in sectors such as space technology, smart cities planning and biomedical sciences.
Last year, their bilateral trade was valued at 16 billion Singapore dollars ($11.5 billion). France was Singapore’s second-biggest trading partner in the European Union.
“Singapore and France share a common vision of a world that embraces openness, multilateralism, globalization and the rule of law,” said Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. “We all share common challenges, but the solutions are not to be found from turning inwards.”
Hollande leaves for Malaysia on Tuesday.
Annabelle Liang, The Associated Press