France backs EU-U.S. trade talks after culture clash

Fri Jun 14, 2013 5:47pm EDT
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By Philip Blenkinsop and Robin Emmott

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - France cleared the European Union to launch free-trade talks with the United States on Friday 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.   Continued...

Visitors watch a film as they attend the opening night of a drive-in cinema, which will run till June 21, at the Grand Palais in Paris June 11, 2013. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes