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Agricultural policy

Publié le September 7, 2011
Speech by François Fillon, Prime Minister, (excerpts)
Mortagne-au-Perche, September 2 , 2011


Our agriculture has assets. Our agriculture has remarkable potential. It can play a very big role in a global market where demand won’t stop rising in the coming decades, provided it produces more, provided it produces better, provided it’s a modern agriculture, an agriculture conscious of the realities of its environment, determined to face up to them effectively; provided, too – and this is clearly very important – that the imbalances currently affecting the global market in food produce are ironed out.

On this subject, I want to tell you – although you can see it clearly – that France is at the forefront of the battle for greater fairness in the rules of international trade. It must also be said that the current economic situation is paradoxical, because on the one hand the global population is developing faster than expected, developing faster than agricultural production – and we know today that we’ll have to increase overall agricultural production by 70% worldwide, to respond to the human needs that will arise – and on the other hand, agriculture is under fire from globalization; it’s the victim of speculation, which is totally alien to its missions, and particularly its essential mission, which is to feed the planet.

In all the countries of the world, agricultural price volatility is having tragic consequences.

This volatility was one of the main causes of the hunger riots of 2008, and today we can see the tragic situation in the Horn of Africa countries. Well, in the face of this crisis, France hasn’t stood idly by. We’ve been spurred into action, along with the international community. We’ve also established a major aid programme for the famine in the Horn of Africa.

But this aid is targeted – and this is pretty fundamental – only at saving human lives; it doesn’t enable us to resolve the problems in the long term. So we must prevent these tragic situations from spreading, and to that end we must have a strategic vision, and the courage to highlight the need to regulate world agricultural product markets.

Indeed, it’s unacceptable for agricultural products to become a proxy for extremely complex financial products focused solely on short-term profitability. It’s unacceptable for entire populations to be deprived of what’s most vital because speculators are buying up whole harvests only to sell them on immediately and make a profit from such speculation. And it’s unthinkable, at times of crisis, that we should be seeing the re-emergence of protectionist reflexes, which are in no way a solution to agriculture’s problems but which, on the contrary, aggravate violent fluctuations in the market and jeopardize our entire agricultural economy.

When we took over the G20 presidency, we decided, under President Sarkozy’s authority, to make agricultural issues – let me point this out to you, this has never happened –one of the G20’s main priorities for the first time. We proposed an action plan, and this plan was accepted by all the G20 member countries. It’s a first stage, and in a few weeks’ time in Cannes we’re going to have a meeting of the G20 countries that will enable us to set out new developments.

We have an ambition to regulate the global market, an ambition for balance, an ambition for fairness. We have this ambition, too, for trade relations, for international trade negotiations, because we say – and I know farmers have been saying it for a long time, and they haven’t been sufficiently heard – that it’s not reasonable, not legitimate to open our borders to produce that’s not subject to the same environmental and health standards as those required in Europe. It’s not being protectionist to say this; it’s simply saying there must be reciprocity in trade.

If we set French producers, European producers very high targets in terms of health standards, then produce that enters Europe must meet the same criteria. Anything else would be absurd; it would clearly be absurd, because European livestock and arable farmers can’t stand up to competition that is unfair, and it’s also absurd because it means we accept produce for our consumers that don’t have the same quality standards – particularly in terms of health security – as those we require of our livestock farmers and arable farmers.

We also defend this policy on our continent against all those who would like to dismantle the Common Agricultural Policy and deregulate agriculture, a policy that was conducted by many European states in the last years of the 20th century. Today’s events prove wrong those who wanted to dismantle the Common Agricultural Policy, those who ultimately believed that Europe no longer needed farmers, that it was enough to buy agricultural produce from other countries and concentrate on service or industrial sectors with very high added value.

We can see it was a mistake: it’s a mistake for our country, for employment, for our national wealth; but it’s also a mistake for the whole world, because the world needs European agricultural production, and particularly French agricultural production.

So we’re fighting to maintain the Common Agricultural Policy’s budget and to ensure that the reform due to take place after 2013 broadly takes French agricultural ideas into account. We’re not doing this out of selfish national interests, as I sometimes hear people say, we’re doing it because we think preserving strong agriculture with high environmental and health standards really is an essential challenge for Europe. (…)./.

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