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France seeking 'serious farm proposals'

PARIS: New French Farm Minister Christine Lagarde said yesterday she would not compromise the interests of French farmers to secure a world trade deal, saying it was up to other countries to make "serious proposals".

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is battling to forge a global free trade deal before the August holidays, fearing that the talks may collapse without a swift breakthrough.

Negotiations have already dragged on for years with much of the wrangling centred on agriculture, where France has been reluctant to give ground over subsidies.

"France's line on the WTO has not changed. I have not been appointed to sell off French agriculture in return for a handful of customs tariffs," Lagarde said, adding that Paris was waiting for its trading partners to make concessions.

"From our partners in the talks, notably the Americans, India and Brazil ... we expect serious proposals, particularly on customs tariffs on industrial products," she said.

Lagarde's comments chimed with remarks made this week by France's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, that he would not agree to a deal that forced Europe to make too many concessions on agriculture.

Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, took a similar line and threatened to use veto powers to block any deal that France opposed. Lagarde was trade minister in the previous government.



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