Good afternoon, everybody. Standing up for British business and British jobs means more than taking the right decision at home; it also means working with our international partners to take the bold steps that the world needs to stabilise the global economy and to get back to growth. So, I came to this G20 with a very clear purpose: to address head-on the big risks to the global economy, and we have made important progress on the Eurozone, on the lack of global growth and on the rise of protectionism. In the margins of this summit, we have also had some important discussions about Syria. I am going to say a word about each.
But before that, let me say this: I know there is always scepticism about these summits – the endless discussions, the questions about what really gets achieved, the lengthy communiqués and all the rest of it – and of course there is some truth in that criticism. Let me say clearly that this was not an EU summit; it was not a Eurozone summit; it was a G20 summit. But I do believe this summit did successfully stop some of the growing risks to the world economy, and I think it is important that the leading countries of the world economy come together and discuss these risks, talking about them, acting on them. It is important that it takes place.
In terms of the slide towards protectionism, I think that has been halted. In terms of the danger of backsliding on financial regulation and banking reform, I think that has been addressed. In terms of this ongoing saga of dealing with the fundamental imbalances in the world economy, there has been good progress on that. There was progress on the Eurozone.
We have been clear on the Eurozone over what is needed: rapid action by countries on the periphery of the Eurozone to undergo structural reform, supported by the core of the Eurozone, including of course the European Central Bank, and improvements to the fundamental structures of the Eurozone that recognise what we have called the remorseless logic of being in a currency union.
Now, at this summit, the Eurozone has made some important steps towards both. They have agreed to take all necessary policy measures to safeguard the integrity and stability of the Eurozone, including breaking the link between sovereign debt problems and bank instability. They committed to take steps towards fiscal and economic integration, including through a banking union. These are significant agreements; now the Eurozone countries need to get on and implement them.
To deal with the wider risks of contagion to the global economy, the G20 also welcome the commitments to increase the resources available to the IMF by more than $430 billion. On growth, there was a firm commitment to implement fiscal consolidation and to reduce imbalances. We welcomed in particular China’s commitment to allow market forces to play a larger role in determining movements in its exchange rate. This is an absolutely fundamental advance for the G20 in dealing with one of the underlining causes of the crisis in 2008. The G20 agreed that monetary policy should continue to support the economic recovery, and every G20 country has put on the table specific structural reform commitments to strengthen global demand, foster job creation and increase growth potential. Vitally for Britain, this includes measures to help complete the European single market.
On trade, we reaffirmed our commitment to avoid any new protectionist measures until at least the end of 2014, and to roll back any that have arisen. We committed to maintain a supportive business environment for investors. It was clear in our discussions that recent behaviour by Argentina on both trade and investment was not acceptable.
The University of Toronto yesterday produced a detailed analysis to the extent of which each G20 country has met its commitments since the last summit in Cannes. I think this is important; we come to these summits, we make these commitments, we say we are going to do these things and it is important that there is an organisation that checks up on who has done what. I am proud to say, for the record, that Britain was top of this particular league table, and you can see who came bottom.
Finally, in the margins of this summit, the US and Europe reached a groundbreaking political agreement to move forward with a deep but credible trade agreement by the end of 2014. This is significant. The EU and US together account for over half of the world’s GDP. I have long believed that if we can get a proper free trade agreement between the EU and the US, it could make a huge difference to all our economies, and there is a very encouraging statement that has been put out today by the EU and the US. Completing a deal here could provide an enormous boost to growth across the world, and that would of course mean jobs and growth in Britain.
Turning to Syria, in the margins of the summit, I had discussions with President Obama, President Putin, Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande and Prime Minister Erdogan. Syria is descending rapidly into a bloody and tragic civil war, with potentially irreparable consequences for its people and the future. There is little time left to resolve this, but we do now have clear agreement on the key principles – on the risks to Syria, on the need to stop the violence and the urgency of a political transition from the dreadful situation of today to a future where its people can once again make their voices heard and choose their own government.
Now of course there remain differences over sequencing the exact shape of how the transition takes place, but it is welcome that President Putin has been explicit that he is not locked into Assad remaining in charge in Syria. What we need next is an agreement on a transitional leadership that can move Syria to a democratic future, which protects the rights of all its communities. At the same time, it makes no sense for any country to be supplying arms to a regime that is killing its own people with mortars, snipers and attack helicopters.
Now, we have put in place a strong EU arms embargo; we are closely tracking other shipments to Syria, and want to work with countries and companies around the world to stop them. It is good news that the shipment of attack helicopters that we had been tracking in the North Sea in recent days is now heading away from Syria, but we must continue to work to stem the flow of weapons.
I believe we have made some important progress here at this summit, both on the global economy and on Syria. There are very significant challenges remaining. The test is now for countries to see through the agreements that we have reached. Britain is, as I have said, will continue to do just that.
Thank you very much. I am happy to take some questions.
Prime Minister, do you think your confrontation with President Kirchner has improved or damaged Britain and the Falkland Islander’s case, in the eyes of the world? And, for the record, what is your answer for Argentina’s assertion that the appropriate place to settle this matter is discussions at the UN decolonisation committee?
I just think it is very important for the good of the Falkland Islands, and frankly for the long term good of this whole issue, as you say, in the eyes of this world, for people to focus on the decision the Falkland Islanders themselves have made, which is to hold a referendum about their future. At the heart of the UN charter is the idea of self-determination. All the countries involved in this dispute say that they believe in democracy, say they believe in human rights, say they believe in self-determination. Now the people of the Falkland Islands are going to vote in a referendum, and I want to put this issue beyond doubt. I want to put this issue beyond doubt for Argentina, for the people of the Falkland Islands and also for all the international gatherings that endlessly happen and the endless language proposed to try to change the terms of this issue. I think this referendum is a very important moment, so I wanted to raise it specifically with the Argentine president, and say it is important that everyone pay attention to this referendum.
I think it was the right thing to do, and it is the right thing to stand up for the people of the Falkland Islands. I think it is very important to put this issue beyond doubt. It is the 30th anniversary, and it is important for people to understand how strongly the Falkland Islanders feel, but also how staunch Britain will be in the defence of their rights.
Prime Minister, what do you say to those people who suggest it was a stunt, though, that effectively you wanted to please the newspapers and voters back home, and therefore picked a fight with President Kirchner?
On another matter, if I may, you were in a meeting with the Eurozone countries tonight, and with President Obama. Are you clearer about the next measures they may announce, the form of bailouts that might be agreed for Eurozone countries whose banks and debt problems continue?
Well, first of all, I just think it was an important conversation to have. This referendum I think is something of a game changer for this issue, and I think it is very good that it is coming about. I think we should be clear that because there is a referendum, there is a chance for those countries in the world that have not looked at this issue for a while and have perhaps accepted some of the propaganda put around by Argentina or their supporters, and it is an opportunity for them to look again at this issue and recognise that the people of these islands should be able to determine their own future. So I felt this was an important point to make to the Argentine president, and an important point to make more widely, and that is exactly why I did what I did – no other reason than that.
On the issue of what we discussed in the Eurozone, European Union, US meeting, what I sensed at this summit was that there is a fresh impetus with the Eurozone members – in terms of using all the mechanisms, institutions and firepower that they have – to stand up and support their currency. I think that is very important in terms of trying to deal with the uncertainty that there is in financial markets.
Obviously there were a lot of discussions about the Eurozone at this summit and I think what came out quite clearly is the Eurozone members are going to very strongly defend their currency and take all the necessary measures to put its future beyond doubt. That is what we discussed at the meeting and I think you will see President Obama make a pretty strong statement along those lines as well.
Thank you very much. You talk about a fresh impetus there – looking forward to next week and the end of next week. You are probably not looking forward to it much at all really, but will you go to Brussels banging the table, in particular, because some of this fresh impetus is coming from something called the banking union? Will you be asking for what you asked for in December and expecting a different response?
Britain I think is playing a very constructive role in this. We are saying, ‘Look, we’re not in the single currency; we’re not going to join the single currency, but we understand that the single currency has a remorseless logic which means that if it is going to work properly it has got to have a central bank that stands behind it, a banking union that backs it up, fiscal transfers between stronger and weaker member states to make more sense of it.’ It needs the features of a single currency as we have in the pound-sterling, or a single currency as we have in America with the dollar.
So we have a totally intellectually strong and coherent case about what needs to be done, but we are also being very clear about the defence of the British national interest, which is that our membership of the European Union is every bit as legitimate, every bit as important as anybody else’s and our interests in the European Union are making sure that we are full members, making sure that we are full members of the single market, that the single market is safeguarded. Of course, as these steps go ahead it will be very important to make sure that those interests are properly safeguarded and I will always do that as I did last December.
So, it won’t be a question of banging the table; it is a very rational debate that is going to be taking place in Europe about how the Eurozone members go ahead safeguarding their currency and how those countries not in the Eurozone safeguard their interests. I do not think it is beyond the wit of man to find a sensible set of arrangements to do that, and that is exactly what I will be trying to do.
Thank you Prime Minister. There were 2 women with whom you did not see eye to eye at this summit. One was over the Falklands, the other was over the need to get her country’s financial might right behind the Eurozone. Of those two women, which one is going to come round to your way of thinking first?
Well, I certainly had a very enjoyable conversation with Angela Merkel because at the trade lunch we used a number of modern means of communication to keep up with the football and I can certainly say that it is a lot better watching England play football sitting next to Chancellor Merkel when we are both cheering for the same side as we were. So, we have a very good relationship, although I gather that if we win our next match, and if Germany wins its next match, it could be England-Germany on the night of the European Council Meeting, which I think will mean there may be some banging of the tables to that regard.
With all these conversations I think it is very important to stand up for your national interests but also to try to build strong relationships. That is exactly what I have done at this summit. I have a very strong relationship with Angela Merkel. I admire her as a politician and as a leader. I do not think it is right to place all the woes of the Eurozone at the door of one leader, as I’ve said. I think it is very important to understand the political pressures that other leaders are under. Clearly for Germany to take some of the steps that those of us believe you need change in the Eurozone require, some of those steps are politically difficult and we have to show our understanding of that. I think, as I say, our relationship is strong enough to withstand some frank debates about these issues.
Very quickly, Prime Minister, just wondered if you had a message to the England Football Team on their qualification to the next stage? Secondly, have you changed your views on goal side and goal mouth technology since the end of the game?
My message is congratulations. I think they have shown incredible pluck and courage in the way that they have fought this campaign so far, and it is great that they are going through from the group round undefeated. I think it was a great – from what I saw, obviously not watching all of the match – from what I saw it was a very good team effort and I wish them well for the next round and for the game against Italy.
Goal line technology: I remember thinking it was a thoroughly good idea when Frank Lampard was disappointed in that previous England-Germany game. I will have to reflect a little bit further, but don’t expect an immediate U-turn.
Thank you very much.