Sunday, March 3, 2024

French farmers don’t like free trade

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French farm leaders are taking a cautious approach towards the European Union’s ongoing free-trade negotiations with New Zealand and Australia. The country’s main farmers’ union, FNSEA, is already less than enthusiastic about the EU’s fledgling free-trade deal with Canada (CETA) while being hugely negative over the EU’s approach to securing a similar agreement with the Mercosur countries.
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So the prospect of the EU negotiating new pacts with NZ and Australia is being watched carefully.

“It’s very difficult for French farmers to compete against imported products which may be totally different in terms of production standards to what we produce in France,” FNSEA president Christiane Lambert said.

“They also tend to arrive in the EU with lower prices than we’re able to achieve domestically, leaving our own farmers with big challenges to face under both CETA and Mercosur.”

While FNSEA sees Mercosur as the more dangerous of the two agreements Lambent believes CETA also needs to be watched in terms of production conditions.

French farmers’ experience of CETA and Mercosur is casting a shadow over the EU’s need to strike new deals with NZ and Australia, especially as farm incomes in France remain under pressure.

That was clear from industry comments made when French farm minister Stephane Travert visited SPACE 2018, the country’s massive annual agribusiness exhibition and conference near Rennes in Brittany.

SPACE president and local farmer Marcel Denieul told Travert the nation’s farmers are still on the front-line of drudgery almost 16 months after President Macron was elected with the promise of a major reform of farming incomes.

Travert said he remains very much on the farmers’ side and the French government will keep its promises to the industry.

With CETA and Mercosur set to be followed by NZ and Australia, however, farmers in France are still waiting to be impressed by what the French government is doing for its own producers.

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