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France Hints at Veto on Farm Pact; Farmers Target Coca-Cola Plant

November 23, 1992

PARIS (AP) _ About 250 farmers shut down a Coca-Cola plant today to protest a farm agreement between the United States and the European Community, stepping up pressure on the French government to veto the accord.

Police ringed the production plant at Grigny, south of Paris, as farmers burned tires on the grounds and called for an end to ″American hegemony.″ No violence was reported and the farmers dispersed shortly before noon.

Coca-Cola Co. ″is the biggest symbol of an America that wants to extend its hegemony more and more,″ said Herve Morizet of the National Center for Young Farmers.

Coca-Cola’s chief spokesman in Paris, Cyriec de Salaberry, said it was ″too bad that the farmers have taken Coca-Cola as a symbol of the problems between France and the United States. We have a long history here.″

French farmers complain that Washington is exerting undue pressure on them. The agriculture accord, announced Friday, has outraged them.

The agreement would cut subsidized EC agricultural exports by 21 percent and reduce production of some crops, particularly oilseeds. The pact removed the main obstacle to a long-delayed world trade agreement under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT.

Senior negotiators of GATT’s Trade Negotiations Committee are to meet Thursday to resume talks to liberalize world trade, GATT Director-General Arthur Dinkel said today.

Washington has threatened to slap $300 million in tariffs on EC agricultural products, mostly white wine, by Dec. 5 unless the subsidy disagreements are overcome.

The protest that shut down the Coca-Cola plant for about three hours was organized by the Young Farmers and the National Federation of Farm Unions, France’s largest farm organizations.

In a related action, about 100 farmers drove tractors into the southern city of Valenciennes today, blocking traffic and displaying banners that called the agreement ″treason.″

Farmers also burned hay and tires, dumped crops, or blocked roads with tractors in Arles, Blois, and Chalons-Sur-Marne. The house of former agriculture minister Louis Mermaz was struck by grafitti-spraying farmers.

Farmers burned hay and tires outside government and U.S. diplomatic buildings last week and vandalized McDonald’s restaurants.

On Sunday, Premier Pierre Beregovoy demanded new negotiations and implied that Paris would veto the accord in its current form, even though the 11 other members of the EC appear to support it.

Agriculture Minister Jean-Pierre Soisson, interviewed in the business newspaper L’Expansion, acknowledged that Washington had made substantial concessions but complained that caps on oilseed production for industrial uses to 1.5 million acres was ″far too limited.″