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Home News France not voice of protectionism at WTO talks

France not voice of protectionism at WTO talks

Published on 05/12/2005

PARIS, Dec 5 (AFP) - France is not trying to protect its farmers at the expense of poor countries in the current round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a column in the International Herald Tribune newspaper Monday.

With representatives from 158 countries due to meet this month in Hong Kong to hammer out new WTO trade rules, the foreign minister said France “has everything to gain from an agreement that would bring globalization under control and open up fast-growing markets.”

Douste-Blazy defended France from charges that it is hiding behind the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to prevent new cuts in farm tariffs for exporters from the developing world.

“Those who claim that cutting customs tariffs will spur export growth in the less-developed countries are wrong. If the markets for farm produce are opened up unchecked, the farmers of countries like Brazil and Argentina will benefit.

“But a sudden lowering of European barriers will put paid to the possibility of self-sufficiency for the poorest countries,” he said, noting that for so-called “countries of the South” EU farm tariffs have already been virtually abolished.

The foreign minister also called on the European Commission and its trade negotiator Peter Mandelson not to make concessions at the Hong Kong talks that go beyond agreed reforms of the CAP.

“We cannot allow a handful of people to put in jeopardy a decision arrived at unanimously …. This is not a question of defending the interests of France in isolation, but about preserving the overall balance within the European Union,” he said.

Douste-Blazy called on developing countries to balance their demands for greater access to Europe by opening up their own markets for European services and other industries.

“Each of us must go some way toward the other. France’s voice will not be the voice of calculated protectionism but that of reasonable market economics,” he concluded.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news