Christine Lagarde: 'Trade liberalisation should safeguard agriculture'

From a speech by French Foreign Minister for External Trade, delivered at the London School of Economics

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Europe fought very hard to set up the WTO and to flank it with an effective dispute settlement system. This was certainly not the first choice of many other developed countries. Global rules are also prerequisites to ensure that all countries - even the poorest - have and can use the same rights Global rules protect developing countries.

As Lacordaire, a French Dominican of the 19th century, used to say: "Between the poor and the rich, the weak and the powerful, liberty enslaves and the law sets free." Europe firmly believes that developing countries need global rules to reap the benefits of globalisation and to be protected from possible attempts by more powerful countries or multinationals trying to negotiate their deals.

Accordingly, in trade negotiations, Europe definitely gives priority to multilateral over bilateral agreements. Multilateral agreements deliver much larger economic benefits and permit the global rules needed to ensure fair and equitable trade. This means that the state has the duty to strike a balance between gains resulting from competition and social justice.

I would like to stress the political need to reassure citizens that a genuine system allowing a fair share of economic benefits is possible in the context of a globalised word. Trade liberalisation should respect and preserve collective values or preferences rooted in social needs and collective choice. It is about cultural diversity, safeguard of public services and agriculture. You are certainly aware that France is particularly sensitive on these issues.

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