Published On: Wed, Aug 21st, 2019

France to monitor EU-Canada trade deal ‘very closely’ as impact of farmers sparks outrage | World | News

“We will have a tight control over everything – what comes in and what goes out. If there are slip-ups, we will address them immediately. We will not import the kind of agriculture that we do not want in France and in Europe, with norms that are different from ours.” M Guillaume also acknowledged the ongoing “suffering” of France’s agricultural community. He added: “I want French farmers to know that the government is here to defend them.” 

Championed by President Emmanuel Macron despite fierce resistance from the left and the far-right, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or Ceta, removes tariffs on nearly all goods and services between Canada and the Brussels bloc. 

Anti-government protests picked up in France at the end of last month after the lower house of parliament approved the pact, which opponents say undermines the EU’s social and ecological regulations by importing products made under conditions that would not be allowed in Europe. 

Critics of Ceta also say it will bring unfair competition to French farmers as the environmental legislation in Canada is less strict than in France. 

Farmers have warned they could face huge imports of cheap Canadian meat, cereals and other agricultural products. 

Angry at a deal they say jeopardises their livelihood, French farmers have expressed their discontent by vandalising the constituency offices of pro-Ceta politicians belonging to M Macron’s centrist La République en Marche (LREM) party.  

More than 20 LREM offices have been targeted in the last month, including manure being dumped outside the office of centrist MP Monique Iborra and fellow member of parliament Romain Grau’s office being set on fire.

Last week, anti-Ceta protesters put up a large picture of Jean-Baptiste Moreau, one of M Macron’s farming experts, with the word “Wanted” on it outside a local government building. 

M Guillaume swiftly condemned the incident, writing on Twitter: “That’s enough. Let’s stop all the hatred and stigmatisation.” 

Other farmer-led protests have entailed blocking access to politicians’ offices with impromptu brick walls daubed with anti-Ceta slogans. 

The Macron government has repeatedly dismissed fears about the impact of the deal on the farming sector and the environment, saying that the agreement includes safeguards and that Canadian imports have to meet strict EU rules. 

“The economic destabilisation that some in the agriculture sector feared hasn’t happened, in particular with Canadian meat imports, which haven’t at all been as high as some people feared,” M Macron said in June. 

But as the Ceta agreement comes under scrutiny, there is also anger among farmers over the potential hit to their incomes from a provisional trade deal struck in June between the EU and the Mercosur bloc of South American countries, which includes major agricultural exporters Brazil and Argentina.

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