Paris accused over Gatt

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The Independent Online
SIGNS are emerging that France's policy of blocking progress on a Gatt deal may be crumbling as the country faces international isolation, writes Leonard Doyle.

French politicians are growing increasingly aware that there is much more at stake in the negotiations than cuts to the subsidies that the EC pays its grain producers. As a significant trading country, France stands to gain from an agreement in the Uruguay round of world trade talks, which could create an extra dollars 200bn ( pounds 133bn) of global trade.

The French government is maintaining its tough stance, but some prominent French politicians have begun to call for change. The EC President, Jacques Delors, who hopes to become president of France, has forcefully supported the conclusion of a trade agreement by the deadline of 15 December. 'France is causing a drama for itself,' he said, 'it is inventing its own Maginot Line'.

Far from preparing the ground for a climb- down, however, France's Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, launched a new attack on the US yesterday, saying it was resisting efforts to organise world trade on a truly global basis. 'They want to maintain their arsenal of one-sided measures,' he said in an interview with Germany's Rheinischer Merkur newspaper. Mr Juppe then said that 'the negotiations are running into many obstacles'; that half the Gatt members had failed to make offers to open their markets, and that no progress was being made in talks on steel, aviation, textiles, services and transport.

France's Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, has also tried to shift the ground in the talks by saying in a television interview that there is more at stake than EC subsidies to French farmers.