On March 30, 2009, the Franco-British Council1 organized a seminar in London focusing on "Agricultural and Rural life: One model or several?" Chaired jointly by Joyce Quin, former British Minister of Agriculture and Marion Guillou, Chair of the of the INRA (French National Institute of Research for Agriculture), this meeting gathered forty experts involved in current issues of the agricultural and rural world in both countries.
Despite some areas of agreement, in particular on the issue of climate change and the need to preserve the diversity of the European agricultural models, this debate emphasized an increasingly deeper difference of views between French and British on the CAP according to the specialized magazine Agrapresse 2.
Quoting a synthesis of the seminar comments, according to which "the CAP seems useful as a framework in which environmental issues could be approached", the magazine exposes the exclusively environmental approach of the agricultural policy of the British who, as the article emphasizes, have merged the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment for a long time. As a result, the British do not even consider the issue of markets and their regulation: the decoupling of aid seems to become an intangible widely-accepted reality over the Channel, as well as the non-intervention on the markets.
This position is not new and the British "free-trade doctrine" has always been characterized by a fierce opposition to the CAP regulatory mechanisms. However, the fact that the British position did not change taking in account the latest evolution of the global framework, in particular under the very latest food and financial crises, causes even more concern: this proves that, despite very strong signals sent by failures of the market to self-regulate, there is still much to be covered in order to reach a joint commitment of the international community that would allow the implementation of stabilizers.
1 Created in 1972 on the joint initiative of President Georges Pompidou and Prime Minister Edward Heath, the Franco-British Council aims at reinforcing the relations between the two countries facilitating dialogue between political leaders, senior officials, economists, scientists, and journalists in various fields such as economics, environment, defense, or culture.
2 Agrapresse, "For the British, the agricultural policy is environmental policy," April 6, 2009. A pdf version of this article is available on the web site of the Franco-British Council at http://www.conseilfrancobritannique.info/news.htm http://www.conseilfrancobritannique.info/news.htm