Cablegate: Main French Presidential Candidates Agriculture Proposals
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191459Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6622
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 001585
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STATE FOR EB; EUR/ERA, EEB/TPP/ABT(SPIRNAK);
STATE PASS USTR FOR MURPHY; MOWRY; VERONEAU
USDA/FAS FOR OA/YOST;
EU POSTS PASS TO AGRICULTURE AND ECON
GENEVA FOR USTR, ALSO AGRICULTURE
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TAGS: EAGR ETRD KPAO EU FR
SUBJECT: MAIN FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES AGRICULTURE PROPOSALS
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SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY
1. (SBU) Summary: Although the farm population makes up less than 4
percent of the French electorate it's political influence has been,
during the tenure of President Chirac, disproportionately strong.
In this Presidential campaign, the agricultural policies of the main
candidates have not been a major issue. What the candidates have
said suggests that the policy priorities of the three main
Presidential candidates, Nicolas Sarkozy, Segolene Royal and
Francois Bayrou will differ significantly from Chirac's.
2. (SBU) ECON and FAS have met with the agricultural advisors of
the three leading candidates to discuss their visions on some major
agricultural topics. All 3 candidates accepted that changes to the
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are necessary, but they resist any
full reform before 2013. Biofuel production also receives their
full support. Sarkozy appears to be more open to agricultural
biotechnology than Royal and Bayrou, who both support a biotech
moratorium. Both Sarkozy and Royal propose merging the traditional
Ministry of Agriculture with another Ministry, such as Economy or
Environment. While Mr. Sarkozy is seen as less likely to veto a
Doha agreement than Chirac, none of the candidates offer much
support to the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations. End
Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP)
3. (SBU) As French farmers have traditionally voted for the right,
Mr. Sarkozy may hope, as the President of the UMP (center-right), to
keep this vote. However, he is seen as being far removed from the
farm sector, having spent most of his life in and around Paris.
Sarkozy's association with the same conservative party as Chirac may
help to offset this perception.
4. (SBU) According to his agricultural advisor Antoine Herth,
Nicolas Sarkozy supports the proposition that farmers' income should
be increasingly based on their work rather than subsidies, and he
hopes that growth in non-food uses will raise commodity prices and
achieve this goal. Sarkozy believes biofuels represent a bright
future for French agriculture. He supports industrial biofuel
production, which could generate more than 40,000 jobs, on-farm
production of biofuels for local markets, and research for second
generation biofuels. He is expected to continue the government-based
tax incentives for biofuel production.
5. (SBU) While opposed to a CAP reform prior to 2013, Sarkozy is
open to modest adjustments under the 2008 "health check" to
streamline and reduce red tape. He has suggested that the CAP may
need to further distinguish between large-scale, intensive, and more
small-scale, rural based production. Crop insurance and renewable
energy issues would be part of these policies.
6. (SBU) Sarkozy is the most flexible candidate on agricultural
biotechnology. However, he is still skeptical about its'
advantages. He supports biotech research as "indispensable" and
favors open-field testing within a "strict and transparent"
regulatory framework. He does not favor a moratorium on biotech
7. (SBU) Sarkozy opposes a Doha agreement that would lower EU
tariffs excessively for agricultural goods. He is, however, less
likely than President Chirac to veto an agreement that would
negatively impact French agriculture, if he believes that offsetting
gains had been achieved in NAMA and service sectors.
Segolene Royal (PS)
8. (SBU) Segolene Royal, despite the fact that she represents a
rural constituency, does not garner strong support from the farm
sector. Her call for a merger of the Ministry of Agriculture and
Environment was received with hostility. She is critical of
intensive agriculture as damaging the environment, which has also
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not proven popular with the farm vote.
9. (SBU) According to Royal's ag advisor Stephane Le Foll, the 2008
CAP review should not focus exclusively on budget issues, but
explore other aspects, such as the vertical organization of
agricultural sectors rather than the Common Market Organizations and
strengthening of the rural development pillar. In the longer term,
instead of direct subsidies and environmental levies, she favors a
contract-based system where farmers would be subsidized only after
matching contracted goals. According to Royal, such a system could
actually reduce EU farm spending.
10. (SBU) Royal has criticized repeatedly the fact that "20 percent
of the farmers benefit from 80 percent of public support." Her plan
is to change several aspects of this support. If elected, Royal
would provide publicly the recipients and amount of direct farm
subsidies, which, to date, French authorities have not been willing
to divulge. In addition, perhaps due to her position as President
of the regional authority Poitou-Charente, she has called for the
management of direct farm subsidies by regional authorities rather
than by the central government. Note: This measure would require an
amendment to the French Constitution. End Note.
11. (SBU) Royal is strongly opposed to agricultural biotechnology.
In fact, her advisor for environmental issues is a former director
of Greenpeace France. In the name of the precautionary principle,
she opposes open-field test plots and commercial production of
biotech crops until after the results of a large public debate
(which she would organize) are published. Her agricultural
representative suggested that agronomical alternatives, instead of
biotech, could increase the economic and ecological competitiveness
of French farmers, including no-till practices, diversifying
varieties, and strengthening research on soil rather than
exclusively on crop varieties.
12. (SBU) Royal does not have a strong free trade posture and
opposes a WTO agreement that would open EU agriculture markets. Her
ag adviser criticized the U.S. stance on this issue, remarking that
American farmers would not benefit from such an agreement either,
contrary to farmers based in countries like Brazil.
13. (SBU) Royal supports biofuel production, specifically for
biomass production based on wood, reflecting her position that
biofuel production cannot occur at the expense of food production.
Francois Bayrou (UDF)
14. (SBU) Mr. Bayrou, the center UDF candidate, is perceived as
having the closest agricultural roots due to his status as a farmer'
s son and a horse breeder. According to his ag advisors Jean-Luc
Duval and Frederic Descrozailles, he favors an increase in farm
prices so that "farm policy is based on farm prices rather than
subsidies that collapse prices." Bayrou suggests that farm income
could be stabilized through fiscal mechanisms, such as tax-free
15. (SBU) Unlike Sarkozy, Bayrou officially supports a moratorium
on biotechnology. Bayrou's ecologist leanings are likely connected
to his advisor Jean-Marie Pelt, an anti-biotech environmentalist.
Bayrou stated that, if elected, he would ask the French Academy of
Sciences to review the biotech risks of dissemination for food and
16. (SBU) As a method to increase farmers' income Bayrou supports
biofuel production and would increase support for French biofuel
development research. However, his advisors expressed concerns about
maintaining resource demands between food and non-food uses and
17. (SBU) As to the WTO, Bayrou, insists that the force of the
French position does not rest only on its interests but on a more
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global vision where the discussions are based on an analysis of
problems of the developing countries. Furthermore, Bayrou's advisors
believed trade liberalization has failed to increase farmers income.
Recently, however, Bayrou condemned Commissioner Mandelson for
tampering with agricultural subsidies as a prelude to the WTO talks.
18. (SBU) Concerning the future of the CAP, France, in order to
regain political weight within the EU, should extend its
agricultural alliances beyond its traditional partners, such as
Germany, to other major agricultural producers including Poland, and
19. (SBU) Comment: French farmers are aware that the next French
President, whether left, center, or center-right, will treat
agriculture differently than the previous administration.
Agriculture has not been a major focus during the campaign and 2008
CAP review and 2013 CAP reform will undoubtedly introduce changes to
the French agriculture community. End Comment.