PARIS (Reuters) - Popular former environment minister Nicolas Hulot on Monday urged the French parliament to vote against the EU-Canada trade deal in a last-minute bid to block the agreement.
The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) provisionally took effect from September 2017, but still needs to be approved by all 28 EU member states.
Opponents of CETA say it will bring unfair competition to French farmers as Canada’s environmental legislation is less strict than in France.
Hulot resigned in August 2018 in protest at the pace of President Emmanuel Macron’s environmental reforms.
But with an approval rating of more than 70 percent in the Paris Match magazine weekly poll, the former nature program presenter remains by far the most popular political figure in France.
He said that when France bans certain pesticides to protect people’s health, it goes against the interests of the chemicals giants.
“When all these lobbies are already trying to break down the door, why give them a battering ram with CETA?” Hulot wrote in an open letter to MPs published on the Franceinfo radio website.
“Have the courage to say ‘no’ tomorrow,” He said.
If parliament ratifies the agreement - which is likely, as Macron’s centrist LREM party has a comfortable majority - France will become the 14th EU state to do so.
However, any abstentions or votes against the treaty by some LREM members would be a blow to Macron, already under fire from some quarters for not making the environment a bigger priority.
The French government reiterated that the treaty was beneficial for the country.
“With CETA, we are sure that we will not import the kind of agriculture that we do not want,” Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said on France 2 television.
The CETA agreement can theoretically be scuppered altogether if an EU member country formally notifies Brussels that it has permanently rejected it. A year ago, Italy said it would not ratify it.
France’s Senate, held by the conservative opposition, will vote on CETA this autumn but does not have the power to block it.
Reporting by Marine Pennetier and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Alison Williams