Minister focuses on trade and the environment

European Union – Foreign trade/CETA/Mercosur – Interview given by M. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Le Monde.fr

Paris, 2 July 2019

Q. – Why does France want to ratify CETA?

THE MINISTER – Because that trade agreement between the European Union and Canada promises many opportunities for our businesses and industries. And as the French President pledged during the presidential election campaign, it was subject to an independent assessment before being ratified. The National Assembly will examine it on 17 July. For too long, trade agreements have been negotiated on the quiet, without the public or members of Parliament being fully informed about them. So we’ve changed our approach.

CETA came into force provisionally in September 2017. We therefore increased our exports to Canada by 6.5% in 2018, and France’s trade surplus went from €50 million to €450 million. The assessment by the CEPII [Centre d’Études Prospectives et d’Informations Internationales], an independent research unit, shows that France and the European Union are going to see slightly excess growth, just like Canada. We’ll enjoy increased growth of €780 million a year by 2035.

Moreover, according to the same study, France’s CO2 emissions are not increasing because of CETA. When he was minister, Nicolas Hulot signed a partnership for the environment and the climate with his Canadian counterpart [Catherine McKenna]. We’ve decided to implement a climate veto which guarantees states sovereignty to legislate on the environment and social issues. No private investors will be able to challenge it. That’s important to specify, because I read that Nicolas Hulot expressed this fear in an article in the Journal du Dimanche on 30 June. It’s unfounded.

Q. – In that same article, Nicolas Hulot calls for CETA to be rejected, specifying that Canada is one of the G20’s poor students in environmental terms…

THE MINISTER – On the contrary, unless we ratify CETA we’ll push the Canadians into the arms of the United States, which has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement and on which they’re already very dependent. That’s why the trade agreements we aspire to must promote fair trade, with declared social and environmental ambitions.

Nicolas Hulot is France’s most popular politician. When the French listen to you, you have a duty to be stringent and truthful. It’s not acceptable in an article to make assertions that don’t square with reality.

Q. – What are you alluding to exactly?

THE MINISTER – When he says it’ll be possible for animals fed with animal meal to be exported to Europe, that’s not true. The import and consumption of meat produced using animal meal are and remain banned in Europe.

Q. – Has he become a figure of opposition to the government?

THE MINISTER – The President wanted to overcome a number of conservative approaches. In the past two years, on the basis of sometimes different visions, we’ve managed to build an action plan that reconciles ecology and the economy. I’m true to that ambition.

Nicolas Hulot himself worked to establish this action plan on CETA, which was debated at the Council of Ministers’ meeting and presented collectively. It’s sad that he’s now changed his mind.

Q. – Will Canadian shale gas not arrive in France?

THE MINISTER – I can confirm to you that the small amount of oil coming from Canada to France is conventional and that the infrastructure doesn’t exist to export shale gas to the EU.

Q. – Is France, or Europe, currently renegotiating a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement 2.0?

THE MINISTER – There’s no question of that. We won’t negotiate any broad trade agreement with countries that have left the Paris Agreement. And the European Union has rallied to this position. We were a minority in Brussels when it came to opening negotiations on targeted industrial agreements. But in no way are we talking about negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement, which would affect our environmental and health standards, or our agriculture.

Q. – If we follow your logic, signing the agreement with Mercosur will force Brazil to stop the deforestation of Amazonia and the use of pesticides banned in Europe…

THE MINISTER – This treaty with Mercosur, anchoring Brazil to the Paris Agreement, allows us ensure that that country is obliged to implement its commitments, which concern in particular halting deforestation and replanting [forests on] 12 million hectares. None of the products banned in Europe, like hormone-treated beef, will enter. The European Union will carry out audits and health checks on the ground. European consumers have the right to know what’s on their plate.

Q. – Can France accept the agreement with Mercosur in the way it’s currently being presented?

THE MINISTER – A political agreement was reached. The text must now be finalized in the coming months. We’ll pay attention to the way a number of clauses are drawn up. For example, we’ve secured, for the first time, a safeguard clause on agricultural products: if a sector is destabilized, the European Union reserves the right to suspend imports.

The President set two other conditions: strict compliance with the Paris Agreement and with our environmental and health rules. We’ll also be commissioning an independent assessment of the agreement, to evaluate its impact on the climate and biodiversity.

Q. – It took 20 years to negotiate this deal with Mercosur. Do these giant free trade treaties still reflect the spirit of our age, dominated by the climate emergency?

THE MINISTER – It’s not free trade agreements as such which cause degradation to the environment and the climate. We have no agreement with China and yet we’re invaded by products made in China, and therefore imported carbon. Free trade agreements exist to improve a number of partners in environmental, social and agricultural terms.

CETA has enabled 42 French protected geographical indications (PGIs) to be recognized. That’s a recognition of our agricultural system, based on quality and the regions. For its part, Mercosur is set to recognize nearly 360 PGIs throughout Europe. We’re thus spreading our standards to our partners around the world./.

Published on 03/07/2019

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