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France’s G20 presidency expected to focus on food and fuel prices

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-24

In a speech scheduled for Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to outline France’s priorities for the year as the head of the G20. Reforming the international monetary system and curbing high food and fuel prices top the agenda.

Watch Nicolas Sarkozy's speech broadcast live in French, English and Arabic on FRANCE24 at 11 a.m. Paris time

REUTERS - President Nicolas Sarkozy will spell out his plans for reforming the international monetary system and curbing volatility in food and fuel prices on Monday in a keynote speech on France's year-long G20 presidency.
The address, billed as the official launch of his ambitious agenda, will present the findings of whirlwind consultations with G20 leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and China's Hu Jintao on the three key areas of France's presidency.
Seeking to capitalise on his G20 leadership to improve his dire poll ratings at home, Sarkozy is expected to be most specific about measures to tackle high commodities prices, rather than his designs for overhauling the world's monetary system and reforming global economic governance.
A spike in world food prices to record highs in December has pushed commodities up the G20 agenda. But Sarkozy appears to have garnered scant foreign support for plans to wean the world economy off its reliance on the U.S. dollar and establish a "new Bretton Woods" system.
Sarkozy is scheduled to deliver a 40 minute speech starting at 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) that outlines France's priorities for the year. After the address, he is expected to answer questions for more than an hour.
"Everything he will put forward has been discussed with the main partners," said a senior advisor to Sarkozy. "These are not solutions but some action points and objectives which G20 countries are ready to work on."
More transparency for commodities
In recent weeks, French officials have played down hopes for achieving a major breakthrough on monetary reform by the time France's presidency concludes at a Cannes summit in November, but they point to commodities as an area where much can be done.
Sarkozy's conservative UMP party has strong roots in rural France and the commodities theme is seen as a potential vote winner in next year's presidential election.
A poll on Sunday showed Sarkozy's approval rating languishing near record lows at 30 percent.
He is expected to discuss ways of making commodities and energy markets more transparent -- including curbs on derivatives -- and of improving data on output and inventories.
On monetary reform, France's ruminations on the possibility of giving the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights a role as a reserve currency have evoked a muted response from emerging market partners and a stern silence from Washington.
French suggestions for creating a permanent institutional framework for the G20, parallel to the IMF and World Bank, have also failed to gain traction with some countries, like Japan, openly opposed.
Monday's speech to some 300 diplomats and journalists is also due to touch on current issues such as last week's threats against France by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the recent crisis in Tunisia, where Paris was a long-time supporter of ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.


Date created : 2011-01-24