France says EU farm policy needs quick reform

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RENNES, France, Sep 11 (Reuters) French President Nicolas Sarkozy called today for reform of the European Union's common agricultural policy (CAP) to give priority to EU products and cut farmers' long-standing reliance on subsidies.

He also said he was opposed to any deal at the World Trade Organisation that would go against France's interests.

Speaking at the opening of a breeding show in the western town of Rennes, Sarkozy said he would propose new aims for the bloc's farm policy when France takes on the rotating EU presidency in the second half of 2008.

''I want a new CAP ... because I do not intend to abandon the farmers who do not want help, who do not want to live off subsidies,'' Sarkozy said.

He said the main principle he wanted the reform to be based on was the so-called community principle which gives European products a priority within the bloc.

''European countries' supply cannot depend on foreign countries,'' he said.

Other objectives would be to contribute to world food needs, preserve rural territories, fight climate change and preserve the environment, he said.

France is the largest beneficiary of subsidies under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. Former president Jacques Chirac was a tough defendant of the current CAP and but some European countries, such as Britain, say the system is outdated.

Sarkozy hinted that he did not fully disagree.

''I want a rupture ... a rupture with conservatism, a rupture with immobility, a rupture with the wait-and-see policy,'' he said, stressing he did not want to wait -- particularly not until 2013, the date set for the next CAP reform -- to make proposals.

''The CAP as it exists for the moment cannot answer the challenges we will have to face after 2013,'' he said.

TRADE CONCESSIONS Sarkozy said he wanted to reinforce controls at EU borders to ensure that farm products entering the bloc met the standards of those produced in Europe.

''We cannot impose rules on our producers and at the same time allow the import into Europe of products that come from countries where there is no traceability and no respect for minimum sanitary security rules,'' he said.

''Competition (rules) must be the same for everyone.'' At the international level, Sarkozy said he would oppose a deal within the Doha round of world trade talks going against France's interests.

''Negotiations within the World Trade Organisation must be restarted on healthy grounds and clarified objectives. I will firmly opposed any deal that would not serve our country's interests,'' he said.

Talks between the United States, the European Union, India and Brazil to try to shape a formula to rescue the troubled round collapsed in June over the size of needed tariff and subsidy cuts, particularly in farming.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said on Saturday a deal was within reach but political leaders needed to give a ''final push'' to complete the current round of negotiations.

To do so, Sarkozy called other participants, notably emerging countries, to also make concessions.

''Emerging countries think they only have rights and no duties within the international trade system but they'll be the key to success,'' he said, asking for more reciprocity in trade.


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