As anti-French sentiment over its Iraq policy swells across America, French officials appear unfazed by a new effort in Congress to target Paris with boycotts and potential economic sanctions.
“There’s no chance for it to go very far,” says Emmanuel Gagniarre, press attach? at the French Embassy in Washington. “It’s so far away from the actual debate. … I don’t think it’s something the [Bush] administration is ready to do.”
F/A-18F maneuvers at 2001 Paris Air Show (Boeing photo)
The first salvo in what could blossom into a trade war is being fired today, with the introduction of a House resolution urging a boycott of the upcoming 2003 Paris Air Show in June.
“If [the Chirac government] fails to find a way to cooperate, we’ll urge U.S. citizens, companies and the military to forego participation,” says the resolution’s author, Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J.
He tells WorldNetDaily two dozen members of Congress – Democrats as well as Republicans – are co-sponsoring the non-binding measure, which could be a prelude to legislative action with more teeth, such as new trade restrictions on French products like wine and bottled water.
“We intend to pursue whatever options we have,” said Saxton, who chairs the House Joint Economic Committee and is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee.
The Washington Post reported House Speaker Dennis Hastert is considering “bright orange warning labels” on French wines that are clarified with bovine blood, a practice which has since been banned in the wake of the “mad cow” scare that swept Europe in the late 1990s.
Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J.
Saxton says it’s hard to believe the French government hasn’t been more cooperative with President Bush and Secretary of State Powell in forcing Saddam Hussein to eradicate weapons of mass destruction in his country.
“The whole thing just mystifies me,” he said. “When they were in need [in two World Wars], we were there to help. A lot of American blood was lost on French soil defending that country. … We and other countries should expect help from allies whom we have helped in the past.”
Gagniarre agrees on the historical facts, but not Saxton’s conclusion in light of today’s geopolitics.
“Americans fought for freedom in Europe. Much too many died,” he said. “It’s a pity, but it’s not the problem now. Everything’s different. We don’t have to fall behind the U.S. and do whatever it wants.”
Gagniarre says some $30 billion in goods are traded back and forth between France and the U.S. each year, but the entire food sector – including cheese, champagne and water – is only a small chunk at $2 billion.
France is the top exporter of water to the U.S., selling 65 million gallons here in 2001, and accounts for 25 percent of global trade in wine.
As WorldNetDaily reported yesterday, the French Embassy was swamped with over 1,000 calls in one day from Americans irate that Paris is unwilling at this point to back the use of force to ensure Iraq’s compliance with U.N. resolutions.
“Your country is the worst ally we’ve ever had,” is typical of the messages, according to a spokeswoman at the French Consulate in Los Angeles.
Gagniarre says the embassy in Washington received about 100 phone calls yesterday, and up to 800 e-mails on the issue. He says the calls are split 50-50, but admits about 70 percent of the e-mails have a negative tone.
“Some people want to insult us or complain,” he said. “If people ask for information, we answer those requests for information. Insults we don’t answer.”
Gagniarre also doesn’t think it would be in the best financial interest of aerospace companies to boycott the Paris Air Show, which hosted over 300,000 visitors and generated $60 billion dollars in aircraft orders at its last event in 2001.
“It would be totally suicidal,” he said. “It’s the major air show in the world. It just happens to be in France.”
As WorldNetDaily reported this week, France is more unpopular among Americans now than at any time in the past decade, according to a Gallup poll.
Meanwhile, another survey just out reaffirms the negative attitude among U.S. citizens. Only 26 percent have a favorable opinion of France, reports Scott Rasmussen Public Opinion Research. Nearly half – 47 percent – have an unfavorable opinion, while 27 percent are not sure.
The poll says Germany, another nation to have publicly opposed the U.S. on Iraq, is viewed favorably by 35 percent of Americans and unfavorably by 39 percent.
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