In trade policy France ranks as one of the most protectionist countries in the European Union. From an outside perspective, the French attitude is usually explained as a consequence of the strength and influence of the agrarian lobby. The article argues that farm groups in France have lost their formerly privileged position and the power to pursue their interests politically. A closer look at domestic politics shows that agricultural reforms were successfully implemented against the opposition of the farm lobby during the last ten years. But at the same time, French policy-makers were keen to create the impression that they were unable to make concessions in international trade talks due to the resistance of the agricultural sector. The EU-Mercosur negotiations demonstrate how the French government fended off demands for liberalization using farm interests as bargaining chips.