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France Holds Firm on Trade Policy: No to US Exports


With the government up and running again, the long-awaited discussions over a US-EU trade deal are starting up again as well. But the short hiatus hasn’t changed anything as far as the negitioations go: France still refuses to give any ground on agriculture or l’exception culturelle (movies, TV, and music, essentially). The FT reports:

“Red lines” insisted on by France against any changes in Europe’s rules against importing genetically modified crops, meat produced using growth hormones, chemically cleansed meat and cloned animals are set to be at the heart of discussions when trade pact talks resume after the US government shutdown.

“France will be extremely vigilant to ensure that the red lines set out in the [negotiating] mandate given to the European Commission are fully taken into account,” Stéphane Le Foll told the Financial Times in an interview.

Agriculture and cultural products are both key American exports. If America makes it, it appears, the French don’t want to negotiate it.

Many EU countries are hungry for a deal. Club Med hopes to open new markets, as their own domestic markets have been killed by the recession. Pro-EU Brits think the deal would help anchor the UK in the EU while making EU markets more open and competitive. Germany’s export powerhouses see a lot to be gained. But from a French point of view, there’s nothing to discuss.

In a different system, perhaps, France’s interests would be drowned out by those of its opponents, but Brussels, like Washington, is a system that favors obstructionists. The French position will pose a problem going forward.

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  • rheddles

    “The French position will pose a problem going forward.”

    Not if we disband NATO and negotiate bilateral treaties with allies only.

    • Kevin

      NATO has nothing to do with it. If the Euroeans will only negotiate trade through the EU then France can block it. Theoretically the US could offer such a good deal that ther countries would either push aside the French or break the EU rules and cut a separate deal but I’m not sure the US is willing to offer such a dal r the other countries to go to the mat for a US-EU trade deal. For example, are the Italans really ready to P.O. The French over this trade deal if France could abandon them on debt issues? Do the Germans want to abandon their post WWI foreign policy over this? I doubt it.

      • rheddles

        NATO has everything to do with it. The French free ride on our defence expenditures. Absent that, their expenditures would have to rise significantly.

      • f1b0nacc1

        If the US were to cut NATO loose, the French would have to either massively increase defense expenditures, or massively decrease their involvement in anything outside of metropolitan France. For example, in the recent Libyan misadventure, the French and British depended upon the US for virtually 100% of all EW, aerial refueling, and surveillence sorties. Without American support through NATO, the French would become irrelevant virtually overnight, something that I rather doubt they would be willing to contemplate.

  • Pete

    The problem with the France is two-fold.

    First, the French are consumed with envy for the U.S. And because of this, the French will cut off their nose in spite of their face.

    The French loath that they are basically irrelevant in the modern world. Imagine how it grates on Gallic pride, for example, that their scientific articles have to be published in English if they expect anybody — the Chinese, the Russians, the Americans, etc. — to even bother to look at them.

    And second, the French are quickly become non-competitive in the world market. They know that an increase in free trade will force structural changes in French society that the French elite fear.

    Given all this, it is not surprising that the French are basically hostile to a more open trade agreement between the U.S. and EU. What is surprising, however, is that the rest of the EU countries put up with the petulant French behavior.

    • rheddles

      Apparently, even the French, at least the young ones, don’t like France.

      • Corlyss

        The young English have been like that in national surveys about England too. In 2005 a national survey asked respondents to note 10 things that made them proud to be English. Only 30% could think of even one thing. That’s a sign of a serious cultural crisis that unfortunately has been driven and exacerbated by the Eurotrash elites’ hard drive to exterminate nationalism, deny one’s right to take pride in one’s homeland, and substituted in its place a Demon of Regulation and Red Tape known as the EU, all governed from a distant and dissolving agglomeration that used to be known as Belgium.

        In my opinion, if Europe is to be saved, the EU must be destroyed.

        EU delenda est!

    • Corlyss

      “First, the French are consumed with envy for the U.S. And because of this, the French will cut off their nose in spite of their face.”

      Very true. They feel they are better suited to be the supranational state born of ideas rather than the uncouth and loathsomely insouciant Americans. Won’t be the first time the French have done so. Look how long they struggled, and how many men they blithely killed trying an obviously dead-end engineering solution to the Panama Canal conundrum. Then when Goethals did it with irksome American pragmatism, their response was basically, “okay, it works in practice, but does it work in theory?” Their envy of us and Britain is the source of a lot of their feckless foreign policy.

  • Corlyss

    Back in the 90s, Ben Wattenberg had a program on PBS. It was very informative because Wattenberg is a numbers guy. He worked with the former head of the Census office back in the 60s, so he appreciates the reliable value you can get from large aggregates as opposed to highly selective and purposefully distorting anecdotes you get from modern advocacy journalism.

    In the program. Wattenberg stated that then, the 90s, 80% of revenues generated in Europe by movies were generated by American movies. With action films translating into video games, and vice versa, exploding the market since then, it’s no wonder the French are panicky about their precious, angst-ridden boutique films so characteristic of (cheese-eating, wine-swilling, contemptuously superior) French culture. They’d be swamped without protection.

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