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French police arrested protesting farmers Wednesday as convoys of tractors approached Paris and other cities across France, part of continuing demonstrations over rising costs, bureaucracy and foreign competition impacting the agricultural sector, France 24 reported.
Authorities arrested 18 people for “obstructing traffic” near Rungis, a key food distribution center near the capital. Police and government officials had previously warned protesting farmers to not approach Rungis, as well as downtown Paris or the airports.
But despite warnings, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said there were around 10,000 farmers demonstrating on French roads Wednesday, blocking 100 sections of major roads.
For two weeks, French farmers have been striking across the country over demands for improved pay, reduced bureaucracy, and protection from foreign competition. Farmers have also long complained about rising fuel prices.
Another chief concern is the potential ramifications of trade agreements between the European Union and the South American trade bloc Mercosur, which they fear could inundate the domestic market with cheaper agricultural imports.
The strikes mark a major challenge for newly-appointed Prime Minister Gabriel Attal three weeks after he took office. Despite initial concessions from the government, farmers remained angry, prompting Attal to promise new support measures in the coming days.
At the same time, the French government has announced it would block the EU-Mercosur trade deal, with President Emmanuel Macron acknowledging farmers’ concerns.
Farmers’ protests have extended beyond France, with strikes also occurring in Germany, the Netherlands and Poland.
Grievances focused on environmental regulations within the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and concerns over the impact of the Mercosur deal.
In response to farmers’ demands, the EU proposed extending tariff-free entry for Ukrainian farm products while implementing safeguards to prevent market disruption. Additionally, EU officials separately proposed a one-year exemption from rules mandating farmers to leave a share of their lands fallow.