Sarkozy to seek ‘reciprocity’ in trade talks

During his first visit to Brussels, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that he would refuse to “sell off” the interests of French agriculture in WTO negotiations and announced future proposals to revise eurozone governance.

Sarkozy’s staunch defence of French farmers during a visit to Brussels on 23 May will disappoint Europe’s trading partners, which had hoped that he may show more flexibility than his predecessor Jacques Chirac on cutting agricultural tariffs in WTO negotiations (EURACTIV 16/01/07). 

Disagreement between the EU and the US on cutting agricultural tariffs and subsidies is one of the main stumbling blocks in the multilateral negotiations, but Sarkozy said that he refused to “sell off the interests of French and European farmers” and risk losing Europe’s agricultural independence in exchange for a better opening-up of services. 

Furthermore, he dismissed the idea of additional cuts in support for EU farmers unless the US goes further in reducing its own agricultural subsidies. “I want reciprocity…You want us to open up? No problem, but you have to do the same,” he stressed. 

Rather than opening up “at the lowest possible price”, he said that Europe must protect its citizens against the pressures of globalisation (EURACTIV 23/02/07). 

This would require changes in monetary policies, he stressed. “I do not want a Europe where we cannot build any planes because the rate of the euro is so high that we are giving Boeing the hope of totally factice productivity gains,” he said, adding: “We used to have social dumping, fiscal dumping, environmental dumping, and now we have monetary dumping.” 

On this issue, he promised an initiative to strengthen the eurozone’s economic governance, saying: “Equipping the eurozone with a veritable economic government is a priority.” 

During his campaign, Sarkozy had pressed for finance ministers in the eurozone to take on a more prominent role to offset the authority of the European Central Bank, which he feels focuses overly on combating inflation rather than on the important issue of driving employment and growth. However, he said that he first wished to resolve Europe’s institutional deadlock before coming forward with proposals. 

Questioned about France’s commitment to budgetary discipline – the central element of the eurozone’s economic governance – Sarkozy said: “France will be present in cutting defitis and debt,” but he made clear that results for public finances over the five-year presidential term were more important than immediate cuts in the deficit. 

He promised a “veritable economic and fiscal shock” for France to raise its economic growth by a percentage point and catch up with other regions in the world. “Can this be done by reducing the deficit? It is because of this that we will reduce the deficit,” he claimed. 

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