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Nicole Bricq is since 1980 member of the Socialist Party. On May 16, 2012, she was appointed Minister of Ecology, Energy, and Sustainable Development in the government of Jean-Marc Ayrault. After the French legislative elections of June 2012, she was appointed Minister for Foreign Trade. She was replaced at the Ministry of Ecology by Delphine Batho. Whereas some members of the government, such as Cécile Duflot, considered this nomination like a promotion, many[according to whom?] felt that it was due to the decision taken by Nicole Bricq to stop all drilling contracts signed with Shell in French Guiana, a decision that has been reversed since then.
On 28 March 2014 she had to eat humble pie after she was caught on film saying that food served at a state dinner for China's President Xi Jinping was "disgusting". Television cameras caught her telling Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault that the food at the Elysee did not compare with that served at Matignon, the prime minister's office, where she had attended a lunch for Xi. "Frankly, at Matignon, there's no comparison. It wasn't that way at all at the Elysee. No, it was disgusting," she could heard whispering.