PARIS: France said on Tuesday it was "not ready" to ratify a huge trade deal agreed by the European Union and four South American countries, as farmers and environmentalists step up their resistance to the accord.
The deal announced Friday by the EU and Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay is the largest ever struck by the EU.
It covers markets that total approximately 780 million consumers representing a quarter of global GDP.
But while President Emmanuel Macron initially called it a "good" deal, government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said France would not be rushing to ratify it before seeing all the details.
Citing the 2017 EU-Canada trade deal, which France has yet to ratify, she told the BFM news channel: "We will do the same thing with the Mercosur countries... We will look at it in detail and depending on the details we will decide.
"France is not yet ready to ratify (the deal)," she said.
The EU and Mercosur countries hailed the deal, which was 20 years in the making, as historic.
EU leaders also presented it as a strong signal in favour of international trade at a time of growing protectionism in the US, which is embroiled in a trade war with China.
But the road to ratification by all 28 EU members could be a long one given the growing public hostility to free trade deals on the continent, even in traditionally trade-friendly countries.
Under the deal, 91 percent of customs duties on European imports into the Mercusur countries will eventually be scrapped.
In return, the EU will abolish 92 percent of duties currently imposed on South American imports.
The negotiations had repeatedly stalled over the years because of opposition among European beef producers concerned about the impact of meat imports from Argentina and Brazil in particular....