PARIS (Reuters) – France’s agri-food sector should focus more on expanding exports to non-UK countries as suppliers risk losing market share even if the European Union reaches a trade deal with Britain, the French agriculture minister said on Thursday.
Fractious discussions between the 27-country EU and former member Britain were due to resume on Thursday, as the two sides try to meet a year-end deadline to establish a new relationship governing billions of dollars worth of trade.
France, the EU’s largest agricultural producer, is a major supplier of wine, cereals and dairy products to Britain, and Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie urged firms to look more at other markets.
“Even if there is a deal, there will be a lot of change, the daily experience of exporting will change,” Denormandie told an agri-food event held by export promotion agency Business France.
“This forces us today to be even more active in winning new markets, especially for those of you who are heavily dependant on the UK market.”
While it remained to be seen what tariffs and other import rules might be introduced by Britain, there was a risk that a change from the current single market will curb exports from the EU, particularly as Britain strikes trade agreements with other countries, Denormandie said.
The EU-UK negotiations were part of an uncertain outlook for the agri-food industry that is also facing disruption to demand from coronavirus and punitive U.S. tariffs in relation to a row over aviation subsidies, he added.
Paris was pursuing talks with countries such as China to obtain acceptance for a “zoning” principle to limit trade restrictions when there was a livestock disease outbreak, with pork export bans faced by Germany after it recorded cases of African swine fever showing the urgency of the issue, Denormandie said.
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