Macron tipped to use France’s EU presidency to make bloc ‘ever more protectionist’

Macron criticised for ‘snubbing’ France in favour of EU

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And Pieter Cleppe warned such an approach would undoubtedly impact consumers throughout the continent. France took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on January 1.

Mr Cleppe told “The post-Brexit EU is getting ever more protectionist, certainly with the French EU Presidency, which is pushing for a protectionist external EU ‘climate’ tariff, something that will hit EU consumers hard.

“French President Macron is obviously using this to try to get re-elected, appealing to profound protectionist French instincts.”

Under his guidance, the French Presidency also wanted to restrict food imports from countries which did not follow what Mr Cleppe called “a similar burdensome regulatory approach as the EU”.

He added: “Furthermore, France is also prioritising a new EU trade instrument requiring reciprocity for major procurement contracts, which may benefit major French companies but will likely result in less competition on the EU’s procurement market.

“The question is whether these initiatives will ultimately help Macron get re-elected or whether they will instead contribute to more discord in the EU club.”

Mr Cleppe, who outlines his views in an article on the Brussels Report website, cited forthcoming restrictions on the import of palm oil products as another example of the EU’s increasing protectionism.

He said: “These make no sense, as only a limited part of the global palm oil production is non-sustainable.

“Also this is driven by Macron, who’s responding to discontent among French farmers about competition from palm oil imports.”

Mr Cleppe stressed: “It should be mentioned that there is also no scientific justification for the EU’s policy, as the restrictions tend to be inspired by several media reports railing against palm oil on the basis of the health hazards of palmitic acid, which can be found in palm oil, thereby however omitting that this acid is actually more prevalent in other foods than palm oil, for example meat and dairy products.

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“The EU’s brash approach is ultimately intended to stop deforestation, a laudable goal, which however overlooks how for example Asian producers have successfully developed programs in recent years to slow the trend of deforestation.

“France’s protectionist instincts, rather than genuine environmentalism, seem to be at the root of this.”

Mr Macron wasted little time trumpeting France’s six-month leadership role, with his decision to hang the EU flag on the Arc de Triomphe angering politicians including French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally party.

Writing on the E-International Relations website, Alexander Brotman, a political risk and intelligence analyst who specialises in EU politics and security developments, said the list of agenda items for Paris to contend with, from Omicron to Russian sabre-rattling over Ukraine, was ”daunting”.

He added: “Macron’s ambitions for France’s EU presidency matches the rhetoric that he and other EU leaders like former German Chancellor Angela Merkel have used over the past several years.

“Macron envisions a Europe that is ‘powerful in the world, fully sovereign, and master of its destiny’, one that embraces strategic autonomy and is less reliant on the United States.”

For Mr Macron, the Biden administration’s “rapid withdrawal” from Afghanistan, and announcement of the AUKUS pact between the US, UK, and Australia, had revealed what Mr Brotman called “a consistent unreliability from Washington that echoes the hasty decision-making of the Trump years”.

Mr Brotman concluded: “With the UK continuing to tussle with France and Brussels over the terms of its withdrawal from the EU, and Poland and Hungary engaged in rule of law and constitutional authority debates, Macron’s greatest challenge may be in just containing Europe rather than expanding its powers and capabilities.

“Thinking smaller may not come as easily to Macron, but for the duration of France’s EU presidency, the success of the union may be judged less on grandiosity and more on the competency and management of pre-existing disputes.”

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