EU tries to persuade France to back U.S. free trade talks

Thu Jun 13, 2013 6:08pm EDT
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By Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union will try to overcome French resistance to free-trade talks with the United States on Friday and keep alive plans for a deal that could boost their struggling economies by dramatically increasing transatlantic business.

Paris, which is trying to shield French-language culture from the global might of Hollywood, has refused to join the 26 other EU governments that want talks to start in July, unless movies and digital media are left out of any deal.

EU trade ministers must resolve the issue when they meet in Luxembourg. They need French agreement not just because it is Europe's second largest economy, but because under EU rules, trade deals touching on cultural issues need unanimous support.

"We need to work this out. It's about finding language that people would be satisfied with," said Richard Bruton, Ireland's minister responsible for trade, who will chair Friday's talks.

Free-trade advocates Germany and Britain say it is vital that Europe push ahead with what would be the world's biggest trade agreement, because of the economic benefits it could bring, especially when much of western Europe is in recession.

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

The European Commission, which normally negotiates the bloc's trade deals, is ready to give member states a much greater say on cultural issues in the talks with Washington, an EU source said on Thursday.

EU trade chief Karel De Gucht will propose at Friday's meeting that the trade ministers be consulted before the Commission negotiates on audio-visual services, said the source.   Continued...