France won’t sacrifice famous cheeses and Champagne for US trade deal

France will never sacrifice its labels such as Champagne and Roquefort as part of any future trade deal between the European Union and the US, says the country's president.

France won't sacrifice famous cheeses and Champagne for US trade deal

President François Hollande vowed Tuesday to defend French labels such as Champagne or Roquefort cheese in any future
US-European Union trade pact.

Underscoring his reticence to rush into a deal, Hollande said an agreement would have to protect the geographical names that are the source of many of France's best known agricultural exports.

“There can be no question of sacrificing our interests to get a deal. Our labels are our heritage,” said the French leader, who has already promised to protect his country's farming sector in any deal.

The European Union and United States are thrashing out plans for a vast free-trade zone, unifying rules and slashing tariffs to create a combinedmarket of 850 million people.

President Barack Obama has pressed for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to be agreed by the end of the year.

But support for the accord on both sides of the Atlantic appears to be diminishing.

Many activists and professional organisations have lined up against provisions of the pact ranging from food safety to environmental protection, intellectual property rights, the protection of farmers, or the sovereignty of governmental decisions.

One key point in negotiations is the European system of protecting geographically-based product names such as France's Champagne, Roquefort and Camembert or Italy's Gorgonzola cheese.

The United States does not recognise the system, relying instead on trademarks to provide brand protection.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman, speaking in Stockholm, said he was holding out for a deal that satisfied all parties.

“We in the United States very much value European products, French products, and we want to make sure that they have an opportunity to have access to our markets as we want to have access to European markets,” he told a joint news conference with EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstroem.

Malmstroem said the negotiations were difficult, but there was still hope for a deal.

“We think there is still a chance, and we are working in that direction, to do everything we can to achieve this agreement before the end of the year. It is difficult, but it is what we strive for,” she said.

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France blocks trade talks with the US, angering EU partners

France is blocking the launch of trade talks with the US, exasperating its EU partners who fear a restart to a trade war with President Donald Trump, diplomats said on Friday.

France blocks trade talks with the US, angering EU partners
Diplomats fear a resumption of trade wars between Europe and the US. Photo: AFP

“The French are blocking, but they are isolated,” a European source told AFP after a Friday meeting of envoys from member states ended without an agreement.

The envoys are struggling to decide a mandate to launch the transatlantic negotiations given the opposition of Paris that fears domestic blowback just months ahead of European elections, set for May 22 to 26.



Berlin however strongly wants the deal in order to placate Trump and avoid US auto tariffs that would punish Germany's cherished exports, a prospect Chancellor Angela Merkel has labelled “frightening”.

Pursuing a limited trade deal was the central part of a truce agreed in July when Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged no new tariffs following those on steel and aluminium.

“France is really testing the patience of the other member states to the limit,” an EU diplomat said, on condition of anonymity.

“It's quite daring to block something that everyone else wants,” the diplomat added. Talks were set to resume on Wednesday.

At Friday's meeting, French diplomats called for more time to discuss differences while the Germans argued that “waiting weakens the negotiating ability of Europeans”, the source said.

Paris is especially wary after the failure of talks on TTIP, a far more ambitious transatlantic trade plan, which stalled amid fears a deal with Washington would undermine EU food and health standards.

As a condition French President Emmanuel Macron last week demanded a clear signal that TTIP is obsolete, though some member states would like the option to revive those talks to survive.

France is also insisting on environmental guarantees if the trade negotiations take place, diplomats said.

But diplomats added that Macron had stepped back from calling for Washington's adherence to the Paris climate accord, which Trump pulled out of  in 2017.