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Sarkozy threatens veto if trade talks dont suit farmers

By Jess Halliday , 30-May-2007

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has reinforced his position that the outcome of trade talks must be in the interests of French farmers, and if they are not he plans to veto them.

Sarkozy's latest remarks came during an address to farmers in the north of France yesterday. They follow remarks made during a press conference in Brussels last week, at which the newly-elected leader said he would not "sell" his country's farmers and exhorted all sides in the trade negotiations to make equal and opposite compromises.



He reportedly said yesterday that he wanted to ensure that Europe remains a strong agricultural power and to guarantee jobs for young people who wanted to become farmers.



"This is an essential question for us and if they do not understand that at the WTO table, France will use its veto," he said.



His remarks give a clear message of his position - but as EU media portal EuroActiv.com points out, the threat of veto is subject to the final deal. Except when they cover specific areas that require unanimity, trade talks are subject to qualified majority voting in the council.



France was one of the sticklers against making major concessions over trade under previous president Chirac - especially when it came to opening up Europe's agriculture markets to foreign competition.



The Doha Development Agenda, launched in November 2001 in the Qatari capital, Doha, aims to free global trade by cutting industrial and agricultural tariffs and by reducing farm subsidies, with a special focus on achieving concrete benefits for developing countries.



However a conclusion to the talks has proved elusive: the talks were suspended last July, since World Trade Organisation (WTO) members refused to budge on issues such as the lowering of tariffs on certain goods.



While developing nations would benefit most from agreement over Doha, critics have attacked developed nations for holding up the process.



Parties have signalled a renewed intent to see the talks through to a positive conclusion in the last two months, with a new deadline set for the end of this year.



The main players plan to meet again for formal discussions at the end of June, but for now Sarkozy's stance is that Europe should not be the only side making concessions.



"I cannot see the efforts made by the United States. I cannot see the effort that India is ready to make. I cannot see the effort that Brazil is ready to make," he said.



The French leader also hit out at Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, saying he does not have the political weight to stand up to powers like India, Brazil, China or the United States and that the EU would be better represented by the president of the European council (a position that rotates between member states every six months).



Mandelson has suggested that the EU could make cuts of up to 51 per cent in farm tariffs, way beyond the initial proposal favoured in France of 39 per cent.

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