France may revise transport tax after trucker, farmer strike

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 23, 2013 4:00 AM
France may revise transport tax after trucker, farmer strike

PARIS (Reuters) - France will consider revising a proposed tax on heavy road transport following go-slow operations by farmers and truck drivers who say it will add to their economic problems, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on Wednesday.

The Socialist government hopes to fund road infrastructure upkeep and encourage use of more environmentally friendly transport with the tax, which it projects will raise 1.2 billion euros ($1.65 billion) per year from its introduction in January.

Farmers and truckers staged go-slow operations across France on Tuesday in protest over the tax, arguing that it will hit a sector in economic crisis and leave them no choice but to pass on costs to hard-pressed consumers.

"I think that... we need to think about how to correct a certain number of effects that may be negative," Le Foll told RTL radio.

However, he added that Prime Minister Ayrault still planned to start enforcing the tax, which will affect all vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes, from January 1.

The so-called "eco-tax" aims to pay for wear-and-tear caused by heavy trucks on roads while pressing companies to switch over to alternative means of transport such as rail freight, ships and canal barges.

Agri-business and transport unions are calling for a moratorium on a tax which they say will add 5 to 10 percent to transport costs at a time when the sector has been hit by a string of plant closures.

In the northwestern Finistere region, a group of workers facing layoffs at a slaughterhouse owned by Gad SAS came to blows with employees at another plant after they tried to block a stock arrival.

Labour Minister Michel Sapin, speaking on Europe 1 radio, pointed out that the tax which had been introduced under former President Nicolas Sarkozy, but was never enforced, also existed in Germany. ($1 = 0.7260 euros)

(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur; editing by Patrick Graham)