French hint at accord on Gatt

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The Independent Online
VALERY Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president, has urged the conservative government of Edouard Balladur to conclude a Gatt agreement regulating international trade.

At a weekend meeting of his centre-right Union for French Democracy, Mr Giscard d'Estaing, who was president from 1974 to 1981, said some 'excessive' statements about the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade had 'made France 'the black sheep' of the negotiations'.

Raymond Barre, the centrist who was Mr Giscard d'Estaing's prime minister for five years, said on television that opposition to Gatt gave the impression France wanted 'to impose on its partners solutions which we know would not be valid solutions in the long term'.

The statements by the two former leaders were some of the most important contributions to the Gatt debate as the negotiation neared the 15 December deadline set by the United States Congress. A more conciliatory line was also discernible in a statement by Alain Juppe, the Gaullist Foreign Minister, perhaps a sign that agreement is not that far off.

France has consistently rejected the Blair House compromise on agriculture negotiated by the European Commission a year ago, which would reduce farm subsidies. Mr Juppe, who has maintained a tough line on the issue, showed a softer side in an interview with the financial daily Les Echos yesterday. He said he was worried that 'both anti-European and protectionist feelings are gaining ground in France'. He, too, spoke of the need for agreement, adding 'France has much more to lose than to gain by turning in on itself'.

Mr Giscard d'Estaing said that after 'the irresponsibility' of some hardline French talk, France would be blamed for any failure at Gatt.

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