Some lawmakers from Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move party were given police protection after at least eight offices were ransacked following the French parliament’s approval the European Union’s free trade pact with Canada last week.
The attacks have ranged from dumping rotten fruit to spraying graffiti to attempted arson of local representative offices, according to French media reports. There have been no reports of direct attacks on members of parliament.
“I respect the farmers, but I also believe in the parliamentary system,” Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said on BFM TV Tuesday. “You can be against the trade pact, but it’s not democracy to attack members of parliament because of a vote.”
Farm groups and ecologists have denounced the trade pact, as well as a more recent one signed with the Mercosur grouping of four South American countries. An OpinionWay poll for Les Echos published Tuesday said 49 per cent of the French oppose the trade agreement and 26 per cent favour it. A quarter of the French said they’d never heard of it.
The Canada trade accord was approved by parliament last week by 266 to 213, completing France’s ratification of the deal that was negotiated by the EU and has been in provisional effect for more than a year. But 52 members of Macron’s party abstained and nine voted against, a rare act of defiance in the usually disciplined political movement.
The Canada pact has had a minimal impact on wheat and meat imports to France in its first year, the French government says.
While French farmers often react violently to protect their interests -- sometimes dumping Spanish wine or fruit from trucks to protest cheaper imports, or blocking the Tour de France to advocate killing wolves -- Macron does have to keep an eye on discontent outside France’s affluent cities.
His presidency was thrown off track last year by months of the so-called “Yellow Vests” protests, which began over unhappiness about gasoline taxes and stricter speed limits on rural roads before morphing into a wider demonstration against his governing style and free market policies. In the end, Macron threw 17 billion euros of tax cuts and welfare spending to placate the protesters.