France finally backs EU-US trade talks

France finally backs EU-US trade talks

France finally backs EU-US trade talks

French Foreign Trade Minister Bricq (L) talks with European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht during the EU trade ministers’ meeting on June 14. AP photo

France cleared the European Union to launch free-trade talks with the United States after fellow EU members accepted its demand to shield movies and online entertainment from the might of Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
After 12 hours of talks, EU officials announced that the 27 EU trade ministers had finally agreed a negotiating mandate towards what could be the world’s most ambitious trade agreement.

The breakthrough came only after the ministers telephoned their leaders, including French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, diplomats said.

Paris had refused to join the 26 other EU governments unless television, movies and developing online media were left out.

The final mandate given to EU trade chief Karel De Gucht, who will lead negotiations, does not include the audiovisual sector. However, it does give the Commission the right to ask member states for a broader mandate at a later stage.

“I can live with this,” De Gucht told a news conference.

French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq said it was “written clearly in black and white” that culture was excluded.

“We are satisfied, but I don’t want to call it a victory,” she told reporters after the deal was struck late on Friday.

Trade between Europe and the United States is worth almost $3 billion a day and an accord could boost both the EU and U.S. economies by more than $100 billion a year each - an attractive prospect when both are emerging from low or no growth and are keen to create jobs.

Together the United States and European Union account for half of global economic output and a third of all trade.

With a mandate agreed, European leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama plan to use a summit of the Group of Eight countries this week to launch talks. EU and U.S. negotiators aim to finish their work by the end of next year.

Turkey also wants to be included in an upcoming EU-US free trade deal, amid fears its EU accession process might take too long to complete.