The French Government’s Trade Policy

The Government supports a balanced trade policy which ensures the access of French businesses to foreign markets but preserves collective sensitivities and preferences.

In his speech at Sorbonne University on 26 September 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron took a stance in favour of an open Europe that protects and is able to promote the economic interests of companies and ensure respect for our interests and adherence to international trade rules.

The Government therefore supports a balanced trade policy which ensure the access of French businesses to foreign markets but preserves collective sensitivities and preferences. To ensure conditions for fair competition and reciprocity in the opening of markets, France is also working with the Council to strengthen its trade defence and to protect its strategic sectors by raising its anti-dumping duties and improving its monitoring of foreign investment.

With the action plan of 25 October 2017 regarding the EU-Canada Comprehensive Trade Agreement (CETA), the Government also made fresh commitments to better address environmental issues, improve the transparency of negotiations and bolster the protection of sensitive sectors.

Ensuring the access of French businesses to growing markets

In a global market marked by the growing interconnection of markets and the establishment of global supply chains, it is essential to ensure the access of French businesses to foreign markets to develop their exports, ensure market outlets for their products and help them remain competitive. In addition to big companies, the idea is to improve the access of small and medium-sized enterprises to growing markets by removing tariff and non-tariff (standards, administrative procedures) barriers.

Given the difficulties in multilateral negotiations at the WTO, this access to markets is increasingly achieved through bilateral or regional agreements. The European Union has put into place a very broad network of regional preferential agreements across the globe. Initially focused on its neighbours and its development partners, the European Union’s trade policy experienced a strategic turning point in 2006, with the introduction of the Global Europe strategy and the negotiations of “new-generation” trade agreements with a larger scope (services, public procurement, non-tariff barriers).

This policy resulted in the conclusion of several recent agreements: South Korea (2009), Singapore (2012), Colombia and Peru (2012), the CETA Agreement with Canada (concluded in 2016, provisionally entered into force in September 2017), and the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan (concluded in December 2017). Negotiations are ongoing with Chile, Mexico and Mercosur, and a negotiating mandate is being examined with Australia and New Zealand.

The impact of these agreements has shown that they are important levers for growth and employment. Since a trade agreement was concluded with South Korea, European Union exports to South Korea have increased by 60% and a trade surplus of €3.1 billion was posted in 2016.

Finding a balance between openness and protection

France is very careful to ensure that the agreements would not weaken sectors and that they are in line with agricultural policy conducted at the European level.
Therefore France defends, alongside its partners, provisions ensuring fair competition and also encourages the introduction of safeguard clauses or adjustment mechanisms so as not to destabilize the most vulnerable sectors.

France also defends proposals regarding the monitoring of agreements to guarantee genuine reciprocity by ensuring that our trade partners deliver the commitments they have made so that our companies can fully benefit from the opening of markets. France has proposed to strengthen action regarding monitoring and compliance with agreements and to create a European prosecutor’s office tasked with ensuring compliance with these commitments.

France has also worked with the Council to bolster its trade defence by modernizing instruments and overhauling anti-dumping methods. Today it supports legislation on the screening of foreign direct investments to increase European involvement with regard to procurement strategies in government approaches.

Increasing social and environmental requirements

Since 2006, the European Union has included a sustainable development chapter in its trade agreements introducing cooperation between the parties on issues related to employee protection and environmental conservation. These provisions bind partners to comply with the major international agreements of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and environmental agreements. They also bind partners to refrain from loosening social and environmental regulations to attract investors.

However, in the light of debates surrounding the conclusion of CETA, President Macron committed to answer questions providing scientific information to clarify its impact in terms of sustainable development. This commitment was fulfilled with the report issued by the Schubert Commission on 8 September 2017. The French Government wanted to act on all of the conclusions of the report by preparing this action plan that will support the implementation of CETA in three areas:

  • an exemplary implementation of CETA,
  • the implementation of an ambitious partnership with Canada regarding the environment,
  • a larger focus on sustainable development in future agreements of the Union.

France is therefore now advocating the implementation of binding sustainable development provisions in Brussels, the non-compliance of which may be subject to a dispute settlement mechanism.

France is also championing efforts to make joining the Paris Agreement and compliance with its legal obligations an essential clause in future agreements. The aim of this very ambitious proposal is to be able to terminate the agreement if the Paris Agreement is terminated and to gain additional leverage to combat climate change.

Improving transparency

The CETA action plan also aims to make negotiations more transparent, which is a central focus of President Macron.

Its main aim is to involve civil society and the Parliament more closely and to provide better information on negotiations and their impact.

The Trade Policy Monitoring Committee, which the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs convenes regularly, intends to play a key role. Bringing together members of civil society (non-governmental organizations, unions, trade organizations) and parliament members, it is a unique forum for dialogue where key current challenges can be discussed and consultations held with the interested stakeholders before negotiations and during them. As a result, their positions, proposals and interests may then be taken into account as early as possible.

Updated: 2 March 2018