Speaking at the Sorbonne University on 26 September 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke in favour of an open Europe that protects and can promote the economic interests of companies and ensure respect for our interests and respect for international trade rules. The EU is also negotiating specific free trade agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to promote development and strengthen regional integration. These are called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). This policy has resulted in the conclusion of several recent agreements: South Korea (2009), Singapore (2012), Colombia and Peru (2012), CETA with Canada (signed in 2016, provisionally entered into force in September 2017) and the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan (which came into force on February 1, 2019). Negotiations are ongoing with Chile, Mexico and Mercosur, Australia and New Zealand. The government supports a balanced trade policy that guarantees Access to foreign markets for French companies, while preserving collective sensitivities and preferences and promoting compliance with the Paris Agreement. The EU-Vietnam trade agreement will make it easier and cheaper for them to do so. The Trade Policy Oversight Committee, to which the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs meets regularly, intends to play a key role. It is a unique forum for dialogue, where it is possible to discuss the main current challenges and to consult with stakeholders before and during the negotiations. Therefore, their views, proposals and interests can be considered as soon as possible. France is also committed to making efforts to make adherence to the Paris Agreement and compliance with its legal obligations the subject of an essential clause in future agreements. The aim of this very ambitious proposal is to be able to denounce the agreement at the end of the Paris Agreement and to gain additional influence in the fight against climate change. This objective was reaffirmed at the first meeting of the Ecological Defence Council, held on 23 May 2019.
These agreements renounce the principle of non-discrimination, but are still compatible with WTO law which, under Article XXIV of the GATT, allows its members to conclude free trade and regional integration agreements as long as they meet certain conditions (reciprocity of commitments, significant market coverage, and not more and more trade restrictions on third parties). These agreements contain general provisions to remove customs barriers and, increasingly, non-tariff barriers to the free movement of goods and services. The impact of these agreements has shown that they are important levers for growth and employment. Since a trade agreement with South Korea was reached, EU exports to South Korea have increased by 60% and a trade surplus of 3.1 billion euros has been recorded in 2016. The government therefore supports a balanced trade policy that guarantees access to foreign markets for French companies, while preserving collective sensitivities and preferences.