(Updates with French presidential source)
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Oct 18 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel
Macron has succeeded in pushing trade onto the agenda of the
European Union summit which starts on Thursday, calling for
caution in commercial deals that would bring a surge of beef and
other agricultural imports.
Macron said last week that France was in no hurry to a deal
with the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and
Paraguay by the end of the year, a goal the European Commission
has set, noting that the mandate dates back to 1999.
France's ambassador to Brazil said on Monday that France
would propose changing that mandate to include food safety
provision. However, officials said on Wednesday
that the mandate was not up for discussion - at least for now.
Trade will, however, be squeezed between the leaders' dinner
discussions on foreign policy and Brexit, in an agenda described
by one EU diplomat as "very full".
"In trade, it's about having a political discussion linked
to the Mercosur file but also going beyond it," a French
presidential source said.
EU officials said Macron was concerned the Commission was
"running too fast" towards a deal with Mercosur, as it plans to
open up talks with Australia and New Zealand, two other
countries that want to expand exports of farm products.
France and 10 other countries last month told the
Commission, which negotiates trade agreements on behalf of EU
nations, that Europe first needed to determine how much beef,
ethanol and other farm products it can afford to let in under
current and future deals.
EU lawmakers last week backed the start of such free trade
talks, while warning negotiators should be cautious about
allowing in produce such as butter and beef.
Macron, EU officials said, believed in free trade but wanted
to tread carefully. France needed to learn more on the
Commission's plan for Australia and New Zealand talks and on
whether each set of talks should be split.
An EU court ruling in May opened the door for trade deals to
be split in two - one on major parts of market opening that
could be fast-tracked and a second centred on investment that
would need to wait for approval by national parliaments.
Some EU states are concerned that national parliaments
remain involved in the process.
One EU diplomat forecast an "interesting" discussion going
beyond just the Mercosur talks, with some countries clearly
wanting to accelerate deals and others more concerned about the
impact of globalisation and parts of society put at risk by
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop Additional reporting by Alissa
de Carbonnel, Alastair Macdonald and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing
by Jeremy Gaunt)
First Published: 2017-10-18 17:08:48
Updated 2017-10-18 20:28:32
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