France gives Mandelson the finger—-maybe

The French right wing government—especially the Elys’e-ambitious interior Minister (Nicholas Sarkozy)—is trying hard to wound EC Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson for conceding ‘too much’ in the WTO agriculture negotiations. But they don’t seem to have awakened the ardor of the commentariat. Le Monde, for example, seems less than impressed by the Chirac government’s “irreducible” act.

Sarkozy criticized Mandelson for accepting a ‘fool’s bargain’ in the business daily Les Echos.

But the editorial in Le Monde today doubts that the right’s populist posturing will have much impact:

“La France ne manque pas d’arguments pour défendre le dossier agricole dans le vaste marchandage qui se poursuit sous l’égide de l’Organisation mondiale du commerce. Mais on doit constater, une fois de plus, qu’elle se retrouve isolée, ou presque, dans son combat. En dépit de ses cris de victoire, le gouvernement français n’a pas obtenu la mise sous tutelle de M. Mandelson. Les attaques continuelles de Paris contre la Commission européenne ont diminué sa force de persuasion. Ce n’est pas en s’obstinant dans une tactique défensive, largement inspirée par des considérations de politique intérieure post-référendum, que la France retrouvera son rôle moteur en Europe.”(Le Monde)

In the course of the endless bargaining in WTO , France is not short of arguments defending its agricultural policies. But we have to acknowledge that, once more, she find herself almost alone in this battle. Despite claiming victory, the French government has not succeeded in reining in Mr Mandelson. Paris’ constant attacks on the Commission have weakened it’s powers of persuasion. France will not win back it’s role as a leading force in Europe by digging-in on defensive positions inspired for the most part by post-Referendum domestic politics

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