So far, President Sarkozy has turned out to be something of a disappointment. In the model of previous incumbents of the Élysée Palace, he is impetuously protectionist, uploading agricultural protectionism to the European level, while trying to undermine the Doha Development Round.
I'm not a big fan of Peter Mandleson either, although he may be the best EU trade commissioner we're going to get. Regardless, in a choice between Sarkozy’s protectionism and Mandy’s attempt to reach agreements on World Trade negotiations, I take the side of Tony Blair's former right-hand man without hesitation.
On the one side of the fence we have Sarkozy, who believes that: "It would be highly unrealistic to keep wanting to negotiate a deal where we have not received anything on services, nothing on industry . . . and which would cut farm output by 20 per cent while 800 million people are dying of hunger."
While on the other side, we have Mandleson who believes that reducing trade barriers will "stimulate agricultural production and trade in other parts of the world, particularly amongst needy developing countries."
Free trade needs defending now as much as ever. As Rosemary Righter argues in The Times, "politicians need to confront popular anxieties about free trade by doing a far better job of explaining how much we gain from the global expansion of wealth and markets that it stimulates." Let’s see if Prime Minister Brown can show the courage that he has so far lacked. Needless to say, I am not hopeful.