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France seeks to freeze EU trade talks until after April vote

Bloomberg | 29 October 2021

France seeks to freeze EU trade talks until after April vote

By Alberto Nardelli and Ania Nussbaum

France is trying to block the European Union from conducting talks on pending trade deals until after its presidential election in April, when incumbent Emmanuel Macron faces a crowded field of candidates.

Discussions are ongoing between Paris and the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm that plays the central role in trade negotiations, according to people familiar with the matter. A French diplomat confirmed Paris will oppose trade talks.

Talks with New Zealand and Chile are among the negotiations the French government is seeking to freeze, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

Free-trade agreements can be controversial in France and in the past have been weaponized during election campaigns. Macron is leading the run-up to the first round of elections in April and will likely face a far-right candidate in a runoff.

The commission doesn’t comment on trade negotiations with third countries until they are concluded, said Miriam Garcia-Ferrer, its spokeswoman for trade. The EU and Chile are negotiating to modernize the existing agreement so that it can continue to address all relevant areas of their bilateral relationship, she said.

Trade Freeze

Trade negotiations in the EU are conducted by the commission and no single government has the power to veto talks once they have begun. Once an agreement is reached, national governments then need to approve the deal for it to enter into force.

The EU is currently negotiating a trade deal with New Zealand and working to update aspects of its association agreement with Chile.

Discussions with Chile are particularly sensitive. When Macron and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera met in Paris last month, the two leaders issued a statement saying they talked about “how to accelerate the new association agreement between France, the EU and Chile that is about to be reached.”

Paris already asked to delay talks with Australia after it lost a massive submarine deal to the U.S. and the U.K.

 source: Bloomberg