'Yellow Vests' Seek More Protests Despite Paris Suspending Fuel Tax Hike

Gladys Abbott
December 6, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron backed down another major step Wednesday in the face of nationwide protests against his government, with a spokeswoman for his office saying planned fuel tax increases will not be introduced in 2019.

Rescinding the fuel tax hike was the main demand of the demonstrators, alongside a higher minimum wage and the return of a wealth tax on high-earners which was abolished past year.

Protests continued Wednesday, with petrol depots, service stations, and shopping centres among the targets of the "yellow vests" or "gilets jaunes" - so-called for the high-visibility road safety jackets they wear.

In the discussion for the event, Acte 4 - Vous avez carte blanche à Paris (Act 4: You have free reign in Paris), over 1,000 people have confirmed they will be attending and 6,000 have said they are interested, suggesting that protesters are gearing up for more violent conflict with the authorities this weekend.

The concessions made by French president Emmanuel Macron's government in a bid to stop the huge and violent anti-government demonstrations seemed on Wednesday to have failed to convince protesters.

Macron had made cutting wealth taxes a key campaign pledge ahead of his election in May 2017, arguing that such levies discouraged investment and drove entrepreneurs to leave France.

She urged protesters to seize on the French government's weakness to push other demands such as a rise in the minimum wage.

More protests are planned Saturday in Paris.

Philippe pointed out that the tax issue shouldn't put "the nation's unity in danger", also announcing that the national debate on how to tackle climate change without burdening the wallets of French citizens will begin in mid-December.

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Media captionFrance fuel protests: Who are the people in the yellow vests? "We're in politics so that things work out", he said.

Macron, for his part, visited a regional government headquarters that was torched by protesters, but he did not speak to reporters. "If I didn't manage to explain it, if the ruling majority didn't manage to convince the French, then something must change", Phillipe said. That, observers say, makes it more hard for government officials to answer.

In his announcement, Phillipe said that anyone would have to be "deaf and blind" to not hear or see the anger in France connected with the increased fuel taxes. "It's a change of course".

U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to mock Macron over the policy shift, which could make it harder for France to meet its Carbon dioxide emissions reduction target, a core element of the Paris climate agreement of 2015.

"The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters...in the world".

But experts say the government may have reacted too late to the street protests, a regular feature of French political life which have repeatedly forced Macron's predecessors into U-turns.

Many are also anxious after Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said Wednesday that measures aimed at improving their negotiating power with distributors would be delayed as the government grapples with the "yellow vest" movement.

In the nearby port city of Marseille, students clashed with police outside a high school. As of yesterday, the plan was to delay it for six months, but that has now been shelved completely in fear that more protests were coming.

Four people have died since the unrest began and the resulting violence and vandalism have been widely condemned. Prime Minister, is not a postponement.

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