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Friday, June 14, 2013

Why France can hold up EU-US free trade talks

David Cameron wants to use the gathering of G8 leaders in Northern Ireland next week to launch formal negotiations on the planned EU-US free trade agreement. But progress depends on breaking the deadlock in talks today over France's insistence that any agreement must include protections for its film and TV industries against American imports. These talks are to give the European Commission a mandate to start negotiations.

The French, though, have a pretty strong bargaining position. The EU Treaties (Art 207) set out the procedures for opening and concluding free trade agreements under the so-called Common Commercial Policy.

The Commission makes recommendations to national governments, which authorise it to open negotiations. The Commission then conducts the negotiations in consultation with a special committee appointed by ministers.

In principle, trade agreements are negotiated and concluded by qualified majority voting. However, there are a number of exceptions where unanimity (and therefore national veto) still applies, including “in the field of trade in cultural and audiovisual services, where these agreements risk prejudicing the Union's cultural and linguistic diversity.”

In a bid to break the deadlock, the European Commission and the Irish EU Presidency have proposed asking EU member states to give unanimous approval to any parts of the draft agreement affecting the audio-visual industry once the negotiations on that specific sector are concluded. However, Le Figaro quotes a source from the office of French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq as saying, “We already have a veto on the conclusion of the agreement, so [the offer] doesn’t change anything for us.”
In a world where trade agreements are increasingly all-encompassing affairs, ranging across the entire economy, this gives France in particular a great deal of leverage.


Ray said...

A really great opportunity for the French to be..............French !

Rollo said...

France is probably the most protectionist state in the EU. What they want is the ability to sell their stuff everywhere but to block it coming in to France. They are opposed to any real free trade deal.

Freedom Lover said...

All Britain has to do to have whatever trade deal it likes with the USA & other non-EU countries is to leave the EU (after invoking the Lisbon Treaty's Article 50, of course). Once out of the EU the UK would be free to talk however it likes about cultural & audio-visual trade issues with other countries - including the USA.

But while still locked in the EU prison, we have to accept France's intransigence, expressed via its veto over these cultural & audio-visual issues (& agriculture ones too!). By these means France (& other EU countries too over other issues) can torpedo discussion over all other trade topics that the UK & the other EU members (other than France) happen to support.

What a hopeless situation! And so easily resolved for the UK, & other exasperated member countries too, by invoking Article 50 & (after 2 years departing negotiations) leaving the accursed EU!

Anonymous said...

Of course had Perfidious Albion tried to block something like this there would already be howls of protest in the commission and Strasbourg.

The French seem to be playing an increasingly dangerous game putting their own interests ahead of the community they see themselves as leading - particularly where they clash with German interests.

And trade be it agreements such as this or the China tariff issue are core to Germany.

Anonymous said...

So it's QMV except where France has a grudge. Is France scared that it's people will actually want to watch USTV - I doubt it, but waht's wrong with giving them the choice.

It's hard to feel sorry for the French having a Gov'mt that does this but the French people probably agree.

Rik said...

As it involves services cannot this be done simply without France?

christina speight said...

This farce shows up the shasllow stupidity of Cameron and his talk of being at the Top Table.

IF we were not shackled to the EU we could long ago independently have made a trade treaty with the USA . That is what I call being "at the Top Table"

[Note that Switzerland HAS made such a treaty with China while the EU still hasn't.]

Cameron's posturing as if he were the prime minister of an independent country is little better than a farce. France usually manages to swing things its way but Brit

Anonymous said...

This isn't a "trade agreement."

It's social reengineering of the worst kind to further centralize and strengthen bankster power across the globe.

jon livesey said...

As far as I can see, this "agreement" isn't so much right or wrong as totally irrelevant. The Europeans can "agree" anything they like, but in the end the US has to agree to a final Treaty. If the US won't agree to protect French culture, it will withhold some other area from the final agreement.

Other Eu countries will find themselves paying the price for the French to be French. And why not? They have been paying for French exceptions as long as the EU has existed.