French threat imperils EU trade stand

France's President Jacques Chirac has told fellow European Union leaders that his country reserves the right to block any world trade talks agreement in December.

    Chirac: France reserves the right to block a global trade deal

    The development has cast added doubt on whether the EU's negotiating position remains united.

    French diplomats said Chirac told 24 EU presidents at an EU summit in Hampton Court, England, on Thursday that "France reserves the right not to approve at Hong Kong an agreement" to liberalise global trade - including agriculture, a key sticking point.

    The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said Chirac told the summit the EU "should not put into question" a previously negotiated farm reform package agreed upon in 2003.

    France has been at loggerheads with EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and the European Commission, claiming it has gone too far in offering too many concessions in trade talks at the World Trade Organisation.
     
    Eye on Hong Kong

    The European Commission is negotiating on behalf of the 25-nation bloc at the world trade talks, which will hold a key meeting in Hong Kong in December.
     
    The 148-country WTO remains split on a new trade pact that aims to increase market access for poorer countries, to boost the opening up of services sectors and to reduce farm subsidies.
     

    Trade czar Mandelson (L) has the
    support of most EU members

    On Friday, senior EU trade officials are to meet in Brussels to address France's concerns. Chirac said he wanted clarification at that meeting.

    Mandelson is putting together a new offer on farm trade to be part of the global trade negotiations.

    In recent weeks, France has argued that Mandelson has exceeded his negotiating mandate by offering cuts in subsidies and import tariffs that go beyond what the 25 EU governments had approved.
     
    Mandelson has forcefully denied that and has to date retained the support of the majority of EU nations, but any move to alleviate Chirac's concerns could undermine Mandelson's negotiating position.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    The Power Worshippers: A look inside the American religious right

    The Power Worshippers: A look inside the American religious right

    An insight into the history and present of Christian nationalism, the movement behind Donald Trump's religious support.

    Mapping US police killings of Black Americans

    Mapping US police killings of Black Americans

    Black Americans are two-and-a-half times as likely as white Americans to be killed by police officers.

    From the plague to MERS: A brief history of pandemics

    From the plague to MERS: A brief history of pandemics

    What you need to know about the other pandemics that shook the world.