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France leads drive for audiovisual opt out in EU US free trade deal

France is leading a drive, backed by culture ministers from 13 other EU nations, to have the audiovisual sector exempted from negotiations for an EU-US free trade deal.

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The initiative emerged on Tuesday, the day after British Prime Minister David Cameron, on a visit to Washington, said that all subjects and products should be up for discussion in the coming negotiations on the proposed free trade area.

Speaking at the White House after talks with US President Barack Obama, Cameron said on Monday there is a "real chance" that the negotiations could be launched in earnest by next month's G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June 17-18.

However, he added that such talks on the ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have to cover all subjects.

"To realize the huge benefits this deal could bring would take ambition and political will. That means everything on the table, even the difficult issues and no exceptions," he said.

The culture ministers from France, Germany Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain do not agree with him.

In their jointly signed letter, they called for maintaining the European Union position "which has always excluded audiovisual services, in the World Trade Organisation as well as bilateral talks, from any agreements on trade liberalisation."

Otherwise, they argued, it could affect European nations' ability to set their own rules in the light of new technological and economic developments.

French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti is preparing to champion the position at Friday's meeting with her counterparts from throughout the 27-nation European Union, where the question of the EU-US free trade talks will be raised.

Last month European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said that policies that help protect European culture and media from the Hollywood juggernaut would not be part of the talks.

"Europe will not put its cultural exception at risk through trade negotiations," De Gucht said.

The United States and EU are also already sparring over the sensitive subject of genetically modified crops and the food products that include them which the US exports but the EU tightly restricts.

 

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