PARIS, March 3, 2011 – South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday warned France the Group of 20 nations which it heads risks becoming a talking shop "where nothing happens" — like the United Nations General Assembly.
Zuma, hosted by President Nicolas Sarkozy with full state honours as he seeks to broaden African partnerships, said groups like the G20 and G8, both of which are this year headed by Sarkozy, must bring "concrete solutions."
France is courting Zuma as the influential leader of the newest member of the influential "BRICS", the fast-growing economies of Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa, Africa\’s largest economy.
"The G20 is the most promising institution to define a new governance and a multilateral leadership mould model, post-crisis," Zuma said, "Despite its well-known challenges regarding its legitimacy and mandate."
"The future impact of the G20 will depend on its ability to safeguard the recovery," Zuma told business leaders at a meeting attended by French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and her South African counterpart Rob Davies.
"If the G20 remains in the debate only and not solving problems it will be relegated to the same level of other institutions that are just there for the sake of being there."
Zuma hailed France\’s aim of dealing with "very specific issues… because if we don\’t do so it will be just like we\’re going to the (UN) General Assembly every year just to make speeches and go home and nothing happens."
"We need concrete programmes and concrete solutions to matters that effect the world," he said.
Sarkozy is determined his G20 legacy will be the reform of the world financial and trade system, in order to iron out the imbalances that led to the recent global economic catastrophe, and for that he needs the BRICS\’ support.
In order to win the emerging nations\’ backing for his market and exchange rate regulation plans, he has put development aid and a world tax on financial transactions at the heart of his ambitious programme.
And by courting English-speaking countries such as South Africa and Nigeria he hopes to kill off France\’s reputation as only being interested in those parts of Africa dominated by French companies and murky influence networks.
Zuma, who has visited France three times since 2008 and who was guest of honour at last year\’s France-Africa summit, is therefore enjoying all the pomp that Paris can muster, including an escort by the famous Republican Guard.
Speaking alongside Zuma, Lagarde laid out France\’s ambitions for its time at the helm of the G20, principally "making sure we have a … framework for solid sustainable and balanced growth."
"There are too may imbalances, in terms of trade, in terms of fiscal consideration, in terms of financial and monetary imbalances around the world and they are not sustainable."
Lagarde said France wants to "find a way to limit the massive volumes of inflows and outflows of capital moving in and out of emerging markets … that can destabilise the economy."