Hollande: Europe can beat protectionism by working with Asia

French President Francois Hollande, center, shakes hands with Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Defense and Foreign Affairs, Mohamad Maliki Osman, right, while Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, second right, and France's Minister of State of the Industry, Digital Sector and Innovation, Christophe Sirugue, left, watch after the signing of a memorandum of understanding of the Competent Authority Agreement between their two countries at the Istana or presidential palace on Monday, March 27, 2017, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
French President Francois Hollande waits to meet with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana or presidential palace on Monday, March 27, 2017, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
French President Francois Hollande, left, and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrive to witness the signing of several memorandum of understandings between their two countries at the Istana or presidential palace on Monday, March 27, 2017, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
French President Francois Hollande delivers his speech entitled: "France and Singapore, Strategic Partners in A Fast Changing World" as his security detail stands beside him in silhouette during the 40th Singapore Lecture organized by the Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS) Monday, March 27, 2017, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

SINGAPORE — 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, defense 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.

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