Jun 29, 2008

Sarkozy v. Mandelson = Crisis For Europe?

The Independent yesterday examined the growing rift between the French President and EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson. It also looks at the meeting the French are calling the week before the WTO Ministerial meeting to assess the EU position.

The Paris meeting could be interpreted as merely a prudent re-examination, pre-Geneva, of the joint EU position in the seven-year-old trade negotiations. But Paris wants to challenge what M. Sarkzoy insists on calling the "Mandelson" approach. The French minister for European affairs, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, said: "Europe cannot be inactive on the WTO [talks], which were a great cause of trouble [with farmers] in Ireland, as they are in France." France accuses Mr Mandelson of being too ready to make negotiating concessions, relaxing European barriers to food imports from Brazil, the US and other non-EU countries, and de facto subsidies to exports, without gaining serious concessions on exports of manufactured goods and financial services.

What would the consequences for the WTO be if France manages to win the day?

The European Commission says any weakening of Europe's offers on food trade would provoke the collapse of the negotiations – with serious consequences for the world economy.

One Brussels official accused M. Sarkozy of adopting a "simplistic, populist approach". Mr Mandelson's office did not comment on the unscheduled Paris meeting but said that the European Union would be pushing in Geneva for reciprocal trade concessions from other countries.