France still up in arms over EU farm offer

31st October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 31 (AFP) - France still has serious concerns about a European Commission offer to make major cuts to farm tariffs in world trade talks, the foreign ministry said here on Monday.

PARIS, Oct 31 (AFP) - France still has serious concerns about a European Commission offer to make major cuts to farm tariffs in world trade talks, the foreign ministry said here on Monday.

"France continues to have serious questions about the compatibility of this offer with the negotiating mandate given to the commission," foreign ministry spokesman Denis Simmoneau told a press briefing.

"We have expressed our reservations on the issue because this new offer appears to go further than the last one towards cutting tariffs on agricultural goods, without bringing a clear answer on the question of sensitive goods.

"We have asked the commission to demonstrate to us that it is remaining within the limits of its mandate," the spokesman added.

"As indicated by President Jacques Chirac, France will not approve an agreement that does not guarantee the integrity of the reform to the Common Agricultural Policy adopted in 2003."

World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiators are preparing for a key mid-December ministerial meeting in Hong Kong where they hope to approve the broad outlines of a multilateral trade liberalization accord.

On Friday, the EU's executive arm, offered to cut the bloc's highest farm tariffs by 60 percent and lower tariffs by 35-60 percent, almost halving the overall tariff rate from around 23 percent to 12 percent.

France regards agriculture as a matter of vital national interest and has implicitly threatened use of its veto in the EU if it does not like the proposals.

EU members earlier this month voiced support for the commission's bargaining in trade talks, snubbing a proposal from France to keep Brussels in check.

The talks are part of the Doha trade opening negotiations, launched in the Qatari capital in late 2001. The process has foundered ever since, notably on the issue of agricultural trade.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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