France puts the brakes on European agricultural imports

France will hold the presidency of the European Union for the next six months. This temporary presidency will mainly be dominated by the Future Conference on modernization of the budget and procedures within the EU.

In addition, French President Manuel Macron wants to significantly expand the tasks of the EU in the international economy, which is not something all EU countries are enthusiastic about.

Following the recent decisions on the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), hardly any new major decisions are to be expected in the agricultural field under the French Presidency. The French LNV minister Julien Denormandie must make a start with the introduction of the first farm-to-fork measures, but he must above all ensure that Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski does not go too fast.

For agriculture, the most favorable change can be expected from new trade agreements. France wants protection against imports of (cheaper) food that is not made according to European (environmental) criteria. With the principle of reciprocity for imports and own production, France wants to prevent environmental and climate laws in the EU from weakening the competitive position of EU farmers in the future. 

Denormandie warns that the Green Deal must in no way lead to a relocation of production from the EU. In France there is a broad consensus that the domestic beef market must be protected and that the free trade agreement with the South American Mercosur countries should therefore not enter into force. 

The new French presidency also plans to put imports of deforestation-free soy, palm oil and beef on the agenda, but it is unlikely that the EU environment ministers will agree on this in June. The Environment Ministers also deal with the strategy for soil protection. But here too no decision can be made yet, all the more so as opinions in the EU member states still differ widely. 

The trade agreements currently being negotiated with New Zealand and Australia are likely to meet with French concerns due to competition for animal products in France. According to the French reading, the consumption of local products is a patriotic duty. 

France therefore wants to replace soy imports with more soy cultivation within the EU. Higher food imports, especially for fruit and vegetables, are also a major problem in France. France has more than doubled its food imports in the past twenty years.

Self-sufficiency with food is of strategic importance in France. For the French, food self-sufficiency is a matter of national independence and a sign of a country's political strength.