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France insists audiovisual sector be kept out of EU-US trade talks

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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union has nothing to gain by including its audiovisual sector in a future Free Trade Agreement with the United States which dominates the global industry, French Culture Minister Aurelie Filipetti said Friday.

"Europe has nothing to gain from opening up these sectors in an FTA with the United States," Filippetti said.

"There is no comparison between the US audiovisual sector, backed by massive investment, and its European counterpart which just would not be able to compete," she said.

Filippetti was speaking after signing a letter along with more than a dozen EU colleagues, including from Germany, Italy and Spain, which called on the European Commission to exclude the audiovisual sector from the talks.

"For France, it is a red line, a sine qua non for beginning the EU-US FTA negotiations," she said.

France has long prided itself on its 'cultural exception' -- a unique expression of cultural values which must be protected from the perils of globalisation and pernicious US influence in the shape of exploitative films and television soap operas.

The European Commission for its part wants the audiovisual sector included in the FTA talks but says some parts of the industry should be excluded and remain protected if need be.

An EU source said that on this basis, the audiovisual sector could prove to be a bargaining tool with Washington, precisely what France wants to avoid.

"If we give up any part of the cultural exception, it will be taken and used as a bargaining chip for something else," Filippetti warned.

The EU's 27 member states are due to agree a negotiation mandate for the US FTA by mid-June, with the talks expected to take many years for what would be the single biggest trade accord in the world.

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