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July 13, 2008

French president Sarkozy suggests support for tougher EU produce import standards

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has expressed new concerns about the direction of European agricultural policy.

He has questioned moves to cut farm production at a time of increasing global shortages as well as Europe’s decision to impose tough standards on farmers without the same restrictions being enforced on those that ship produce into the EU.

His comments at the European Parliament re-ignite the ongoing war of words he has been having with under-fire European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson. The former British government minister has been persistently accused for months of negotiating too much away in ongoing world trade talks, and leaving EU farmers exposed.

Sarkozy said European farmers would be worse off and threatened to veto Mr Mandelson’s planned deal. He asked the parliament: “Is it reasonable to ask the EU to reduce its agricultural production when the world has never needed food so much? I don’t think it is reasonable. It is not about French agriculture, it is about commonsense. Food security is everyone’s concern. It is reasonable to require of our farmers to abide by rules of security and traceability and still import meat from other countries who do not abide by those rules. This is the right time to talk about prices, subsidies and community preferences. I think we can reach agreement on concepts like food security and safety.”

Sarkozy also said Europe needed to debate its border controls and the amount of produce that can be shipped into the EU. He said it was only but fair and right that if Europe imposed controls on its food producers the same standards should apply to imports into the EU.

“That’s not a question of protectionism. It’s a question of fairness and justice and refusing to be naive.”

Mr Sarkozy’s remarks were welcomed by NFU Scotland president Jim McLaren who was encouraged at the commonsense language used by the French president. “Farmers in Scotland, like their EU and French counterparts, are only looking for a fair and reasonable system of control over the standards of the production systems operated by those who would bring imports into Europe.

“It cannot be right for Mr Mandelson to be negotiating away the access to EU agricultural markets with no regard for the different standards and consequentially the different costs of producing products in non-EU countries.

“Scottish farmers, like French farmers, only seek the illusive level playing field. It is this which will ultimately deliver sustainable and affordable food supplies to our own consumers in a world of increasing uncertainty over supplies from elsewhere.

“What a breath of fresh air to hear a European political leader speaking out for commonsense, fairness and justice in the world of agriculture.”

Press and Journal

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