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France suspends ecotax on trucks after violent protests

The French government has announced that it is suspending a planned environmental tax on trucks after bitter protests by farmers. It was the second time within a few days that Paris backed away from a tax hike.

On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (pictured) said that his government had decided to suspend a new ecotax on road transport that was scheduled to come into effect on January 1.

He explained that the tax would be put off across the country so as to give the government more time to listen to the arguments of opponents such as farmers who had taken to the street to protest the measure and caused clashes with the police in Brittany.

"I have decided to suspend the implementation of this ecotax to give the time needed for dialogue at the national and regional levels," Ayrault told reporters. He insisted, though, the move had to be understood as a suspension only, not a cancellation.

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The tax would have imposed new levies on French and foreign vehicles transporting commercial goods weighing over 3.5 tons. But the intention came under fire from farmers and food sector workers particularly in the Brittany region, with the economy there depending heavily on agriculture and suffering from several food industry plant closures.

It was the second time in less than a week that France's embattled government backed down on a controversial tax hike, after announcing on Sunday it would not impose tax increases on some savings products.

France has been under pressure from the European Commission to rein in its state deficit. Paris has announced about 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion) in tax hikes for next year, but has been reeling from low popularity rates as widespread opposition to its plans is gaining momentum.

hg/mkg (AFP, Reuters)

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