President Emmanuel Macron told farmers yesterday that France would continue to oppose cuts to agricultural subsidies, a day after EU budget discussions ended in deadlock, while also promising compensation for wine producers hit by US tariffs.
European Union leaders failed on Friday to agree on a budget for the next seven years, as a funding shortfall created by Britain’s departure sharpened debate over spending priorities.
Macron wants Europe to maintain a large budget for its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), of which France is the main beneficiary.
“On the CAP we defend an ambitious budget. The CAP cannot be the adjustment variable of Brexit. We need to support our farmers,” Macron said at the Paris agricultural show. “We did not yield to those who wanted to reduce the (CAP) budget.”
Meeting wine industry representatives, the president pledged to get compensation for US tariffs in place by the spring, Jerome Despey, a wine grower and secretary-general of France’s main farmer union, the FNSEA, said afterwards.
Macron has previously backed tariff relief for wine producers and said he has raised the issue with the European Commission.
The sector fears it could lose €300-400mn in annual sales in its main export market if the 25% tariff imposed by Washington in October remains in place, Despey said.
French wine is among EU products that subject to the US tariffs as part of an aircraft subsidy dispute.
French wine exporters estimate the duties led to a €40mn drop in sales to the United States in the last quarter.
Macron has had an uneasy relationship with farmers, a powerful lobby in the EU’s biggest agricultural producer.
He initially won plaudits for laws aimed at sharing profits more fairly along the food chain.
But the effects have yet to be felt widely at farm level, while Macron’s determination to phase out glyphosate weedkiller has fuelled farmers’ resentment at being cast as polluters.
Macron told farmers that glyphosate would not be scrapped where there were no alternatives, while safety rules on pesticide spraying would be adopted progressively.
There were glimpses of wider tensions in France, with a heated exchange with a woman about pension reforms and police violence in street protests.
Macron offered to receive the woman at his office to discuss the issues further.
But tight security kept protesters, some sporting T-shirts with “Peasants without President”, at a distance.
As part of the customary presidential visit to the week-long show, which attracts 600,000 visitors, Macron tasted French specialities like Charolais beef and Cotes de Provence rose wine, and served draft beer at the French brewers’ stand.
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