[A2k] FT: France lifts block on EU-US trade talks

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Sat Jun 15 23:55:36 PDT 2013


Last updated: June 15, 2013 11:46 am

France lifts block on EU-US trade talks

By James Fontanella-Khan in Luxembourg and Hugh Carnegy in Paris

France has warned that talks on a new transatlantic trade agreement will be
long and difficult despite a deal among European partners that clears the
way for the start of negotiations.

France lifted objections to opening transatlantic trade talks late on
Friday after EU ministers agreed to exclude cultural industries from
forthcoming negotiations, a move that is set to launch the world’s most
ambitious free-trade agreement.

After more than 12 hours of talks in Luxembourg, ministers reached a
compromise that would allow the French to continue protecting their film
and music sectors from US media giants but left the door open for the EU to
negotiate those industries at a later stage with the consensus of all
member states, including France.

“I am delighted that the council has today decided to give the European
Commission ‘the green light’ to start trade and investment negotiations
with the United States,” said Karel De Gucht, EU trade commissioner.

“Let me be clear: this is not a carve-out. Audio-visual services are
presently not in the mandate, but the mandate clearly indicates that the
commission has the possibility to come back to the council with
additional negotiating directives.”

A deal could inject more than $100bn a year into each economy and generate
more than 400,000 jobs in Europe at a time when the jobless rate is at a
record high, an EU official said on the sidelines of the meeting.

France had initially refused a similar deal but later decided to accept the
offer after it was reassured that it would still have the power to block
any demands to reinstate cultural matters in the talks with Washington.

In Paris, there was satisfaction over the outcome of the Luxembourg talks.
A senior official said the compromise in effect reflected the same stance
adopted for the mandate for previous EU trade talks with other countries,
such as Japan.

“We are very comfortable with the mandate. This is not something new, there
is always a clause that allows the commission to come back during
negotiations with other proposals,” the official said.

But he cautioned that the talks with the US would be “very long and
complicated”, with tough negotiations to come in contentious areas such as
agriculture and European demands for greater access to US public sector
contracts.

“The commission will have to be very realistic and pragmatic,” the official
said. Any ‘dreams’ of a swift and comprehensive deal were unrealistic, he
said. “This is the start of a very long road.”

The EU is treaty-bound to approve a negotiating mandate in advance of the
trade negotiations.

The commission will have to be very realistic and pragmatic . . . This is
the start of a very long road

- French official

After the deal was reached Nicole Bricq, the French trade minister, said:
“We are satisfied, but I don’t want to call it a victory.”

The French minister came under intense pressure in Luxembourg with the
majority of the EU’s 27 governments – including several of France’s
erstwhile allies on the issue, such as Belgium and Italy – willing to cut a
similar deal at an earlier stage.

Many feared that leaving culture industries off the table could trigger
similar retaliatory demands on the US side. However, given that a door
remains open for both sides to discuss the matter informally, EU officials
believe that the US will be open to fair and open discussions, maintaining
the sweeping scope of talks.

Friday’s agreement will also give David Cameron the opportunity to
kick-start the negotiations formally next week at the Group of Eight
meeting in Northern Ireland, which will be attend by Barack Obama, US
president.

“This is an exciting prospect. The UK has worked hard with other EU
member states to get us to the starting blocks on this deal. The formal
launch of negotiations between the world’s two largest trading blocs is now
imminent,” said Vince Cable, UK business secretary.

“Achieving an agreement is in all our interests and would deliver a
much-needed boost to the economies of all involved. It’s a win-win prospect
on both sides of the Atlantic.”



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