Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Fearing possible negative public perception over the EU-Mexico free trade deal ahead of the French presidential elections, France’s President Emmanuel Macron reportedly halted moves to clear the deal going forward.
The proposed free trade agreement is a potential political bomb for Macron, as it would allow up to 20,000 tonnes of beef imports from Mexico into the Union, which could spark farmers’ protests in France and serve as ammunition for the anti-globalist rhetoric coming from Macron’s far-right challengers.
France’s meat trade federation Interbev previously urged Macron to oppose the deal and block negotiations that could lead to future “ultra-competitive” meat imports from Australia, New Zealand or South America.
Since France holds the rotating presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2022, Macron has greater leeway in steering EU policy during this period, which conveniently overlaps with his re-election bid.
Citing EU sources, Reuters noted that France was the one to stop the trade talks, a move tacitly accepted by the European Commission as a concession to Macron. “The Commission has accepted, due to the importance of the election and the sensitivities around trade and globalisation, that nothing will get through”, an unnamed EU diplomat said. “It’s frustrating. We can complain, but this is how it is”, he added.
Even though the initiative is French, other EU countries with significant farming sectors are also quietly backing France in its move to stop the EU-Mexico deal in its tracks, at least for now. “There’s more than just French fingerprints on this trade paralysis,” a senior EU diplomat told Reuters.
Meanwhile, France is pushing for more protective trade measures in the Union, seeking to lock in legislation designed to limit foreign applicants in EU public procurement processes if their countries of origin do not secure equal terms for European companies. France is also focusing on stricter free trade agreement requirements, aiming to up the environmental and labour standards that the Union’s free trade partners will be expected to uphold.