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Eye on France: Will Trump throw the G20 into chaos?

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Les dirigeants du G20 réunis à Buenos Aires, en Argentine, vendredi 30 novembre 2018. Une fois n'est pas coutume, Angela Merkel n'a pas pu se rendre sur place en temps et en heure. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

The two day G20 summit got underway in Argentina on Friday, and has already attracted a lot of front-page attention in the French newspapers. The press also looks at the what's happening to former motor empire boss Carlos Ghosn, whose period in custody has been extended. There's the fate of the French civil servant suspected of spying for North Korea, and the French National Assembly's "yes" vote to ban corporal punishment for children.


Business daily Les Echos is calling this the "Summit of all tensions," a reference to the background of global trade disputes, worries about climatic warming, and the danger that US President Donald Trump is going to monopolise proceedings.

The French delegation in Buenos Aires is anxious, for example, to have a commitment to the Paris climate agreement written into the final communiqué. But the Americans are against it. At the moment the text proposed by the Argentinians speaks of “various” energy options for the future and of “different national choices,” but there’s no mention of the recent expert panel report on how bad the current situation is, nor of the COP24 conference which opens in Poland on Monday.

Left-leaning Libération says this meeting of the leaders of the twenty top industrial nations will, like last year’s, be dominated by Trump who seems determined, in Libé’s phrase, to run this multi-national meeting on a solo basis. The American president is not interested, we are told, in round-table discussions or broad agreements. He wants face-to-face encounters, notably with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping. How, or even if, Trump will deal with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the question of Ukraine remains to be seen.

How the G20 leaders will deal with the presence in their midst of the Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed ben Salmane, is another billion dollar question. Europe and Turkey have already accused MBS of involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. To say nothing of Saudi Arabia’s promotion of the war in Yemen.

Right-wing Le Figaro points out that host nation Argentina faces its own crises. Inflation there is running at 45 percent. The president Mauricio Macri has given the residents of the capital a day off in an effort to reduce traffic chaos. Twenty thousand police officers will be on duty.

It doesn’t sound like conditions are ideal for saving the world and the liberal economic model.

Meanwhile, in a jail cell in Japan . . .

There's a update on the situation of Carlos Ghosn, until recently boss of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi motor empire, currently in jail in Japan on suspicion of having under-evaluated his personal income by 39 million euros in the company accounts which are published every year by the Tokyo stock exchange. On the fine legal principle that a suspect is guilty until proved guilty, Ghosn has already been sacked by Nissan and by Mitsubishi, and temporarily replaced at the wheel by Renault.

Earlier today, he had his period in custody prolonged by ten days. He has still not been charged.

Carlos Ghosn risks additional charges related to his alleged use of the car manufacturer’s funds to cover his own stock market losses, and there are suspicions about the terms of employment of Ghosn’s sister, and about four luxury homes bought by Nissan, apparently for the chief executive’s personal use.

He could face an additional 22 days in custody for each new charge brought against him.

The man himself denies everything. But Nissan boss Hiroto Saikawa says the case against Ghosn is based on facts which are “intolerable”.

Saikawa, let it be said, has several axes to grind. He’s never been a big fan of Ghosn’s management style, nor of the Frenchman’s plans to bring Nissan and Renault into an even closer business union, a fusion which was set to happen in the course of 2019.

According to French financial paper Les Echos, Carlos Ghosn has chosen a chap by the name of Motonari Otsuru to lead his defence.

Otsuru is a good choice. He used to be boss of the Japanese police division which specialises in chasing down the golden boys of rampant capitalism and putting them through the wringer. So, in the guise of poacher turned gamekeeper, at least Motonari Otsuru knows the territory.

French spy suspect to be sent to trial

Benoît Quennedey, the civil servant in the French Senate, suspected of spying for North Korea, is going to need a good lawyer too.

Following his arrest last Sunday, and 96 hours of police questioning, this unlikely James Bond who he works for the Senate gardens division was last night accused of treason by delivering information to a foreign power.

He has been released from custody, but is suspended from his job and may not leave France.

Conservative paper Le Figaro recognizes that the accused has never made any secret of his admiration for the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un. He’s the author of two books on Korea, a frequent visitor to the peninsula, and a regular media analyst of Korean topics.

Le Figaro suggests that Benoît may be the unfortunate victim of the current context of tension between Pyongyang and Paris, which do not have diplomatic relations. And also of the currently nervous security situation which has seen an increasing recourse to the courts in cases which, previously, would have been resolved over a cup of coffee.

If he’s eventually found guilty, Benoît Quennedey risks a maximum of ten years in jail, and a fine of 150,000 euros.

Spare the rod, or go to jail!

The debate on a very short, and largely symbolic, piece of legislation on corporal punishment went on until after midnight, according to the report in Le Monde.

If the Senate follows the lead of the lower house of parliament, parental slapping, or what the French call “violences éducatives ordinaires,” the routine violence associated with child-rearing, will be definitively banned.

Effectively, the only change will be the insertion of a clause into the civil marriage ceremony calling for those who exercise parental authority to do it without recourse to any form of violence.

A second element calls for a government report on the need to train parents to bring up their kids without knocking the living daylights out of them.

Last night’s vote passed almost unanimously, only Emmanuelle Ménard of the far-right National Rally party voting against.