French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Saturday the European Union was making too many concessions in current World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks and called for emerging countries to show more goodwill. He said the EU needed to defend its interests more vigorously and France would oppose any deal that went against its interests and those of the EU bloc. "I regret that Europe is making more and more important concessions without anything in exchange. This attitude is an impasse," Sarkozy said at the inauguration of the Paris annual farm show. "The government of the French Republic will firmly oppose any agreement that would sacrifice the interests of French and EU agriculture," he added.
France is the single biggest beneficiary of the EU's farm subsidies, worth more than 40 billion euros ($58.5 billion) a year in total. Negotiations on the Doha round have ground almost to a halt in Geneva this week as diplomats pored over the revised texts issued this month to pave the way for a ministerial meeting...
"The emerging countries think that they have only rights and no obligations," Sarkozy said.The talks, often declared dead, were revived last year, and trade ministers meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month declared their determination to meet in March or April with a view to completing the deal by the end of the year [we can all dream, no?]
One thing you cannot accuse French President Nicolas Sarkozy of being is staid. His extroverted character has taken a number of turns, many of which are in conflict with each other: tabloid fodder, potty mouth, free market skeptic, union buster, defender of French national champions..and now this. It is known by every third world campaigner and NGO from Afghanistan to Zaire that France is the European state whose farmers rely the most on farm subsidies. Furthermore, "the farm" still has a mystique (mistake?) among the French electorate that keeps it lathered in subsidies which hurt farmers in the developing world. Well, here's something that will give the Oxfam crowd fits. According to Sarkozy, Peter Mandelson is going overboard with offers to cut EU farm subsidies already. Not that they have been successful in gaining the assent of developing countries, but whatever subsidies are already on offer are too much according to Sarkozy. Somehow, I don't think this will play very well in the developing world. From Reuters: