The French president made his comments during a speech in Paris on Tuesday, leading to widespread comment in the French media that the country will veto the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Hollande said: “We will never accept that principles essential to our agriculture, our culture, trade reciprocity, and access to public procurement are jeopardised; this is why at this stage, France says no to the current step of international trade negotiations.”
His comments come in the wake of a media storm over documents that were leaked by the environmental non-governmental organisation Greenpeace on the trade deal negotiations between the EU and US.
Most of the criticisms levelled at the negotiations were related to the risks posed to agriculture and Europe’s food safety standards.
The chapter on sanitary and phytosanitary measures makes frequent reference to products of modern agricultural technology, which includes genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The EU has said that “in the event that import checks reveal non-compliance with the relevant import requirements, the action taken by the importing party shall be based on an assessment of the risk involved, and shall ensure that such measures are not more trade-restrictive than necessary to achieve the party’s appropriate level of sanitary or phytosanitary protection”.
There are too many warning signals to support claims by the European Commission that EU safety standards will remain if TTIP is agreed.
Moreover, the document says that both the EU and US “shall avoid unnecessary duplication and burdens” with respect to any documentation, information, or actions required of applicants as part of its approval or authorisation processes for GMOs.
Greenpeace says these details clearly indicate pressure to get rid of trade barriers for GMOs.
The document also refers to the Global Low-Level Presence Initiative, defined as the unintentional or inadvertent mixing of a grain commodity with small, insignificant quantities of another (transgenic) variety of grain. It is a US-backed initiative aimed at seeking global acceptance of agricultural exports containing traces of unauthorised GMOs. The EU currently blocks these because of food safety and cross-pollination concerns.
The document says that Europe and the US “shall participate in the Global Low Level Presence Initiative to develop an approach or set of approaches to manage low-level presence in order to reduce unnecessary disruptions affecting trade”, leading to concerns that EU resistance to unauthorised GMOs will be eroded.
The chapter dealing specifically with agriculture has a section on exports, where it says that both the EU and US “will work together to promote the export of agricultural products from the least developed countries”.
Given the current outcry in Europe over the proposed 78,000t quota for beef from Mercosur countries, this detail also stands out as rather alarming for members of the agricultural community.
Friends of the Earth Europe
Friends of the Earth Europe released a statement following the leak saying its analysis of the documents “has confirmed that the EU’s democracy, as well as safeguards for protecting people and the environment, are under a substantial and unprecedented corporate attack”.
The group also raised concerns about the EU’s food safety system, stating there are “too many warning signals to support claims by the European Commission that EU safety standards will remain if TTIP is agreed”. The group has called for national governments to take action to halt the controversial TTIP talks.
The 13th round of TTIP discussions wrapped up in New York over the weekend but this was before the documents were leaked by Greenpeace. There is huge drive at a political level to get a deal before the end of this year, but doubt has been thrown over this momentum following the release of the documents.
EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström hit back at Greenpeace in the wake of the leak and insisted that the TTIP documents reflected the negotiating positions, “nothing else”.
“Many of the alarmist headlines are a storm in a teacup,” the commissioner added.
Thomas Hubert contributed reporting for this story