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France threatens US trade veto over culture

Article written by Benjamin Fox and published by www.euobserver.com

BRUSSELS – The French government has dismissed as “naive” suggestions that a transatlantic trade deal with the US could substantially benefit the EU economy and take it out of crisis.

Speaking on Thursday (18 April) following a meeting of EU trade ministers to discuss the draft negotiating mandate, French trade minister Nicole Bricq said “it would be naive to think that the discussions, which will be long and difficult … will really save Europe from the current anaemia.”

EU ministers are expected to sign off on the commission’s negotiating mandate in mid-June. The talks are then expected to take up to two years, although trade commissioner Karel de Gucht is hoping to strike a deal in time for next May’s European elections.

Bricq also said that Paris would insist on the exclusion of Europe’s audiovisual sector from the talks.

“The position of France is that we want exclusion from discussion of cultural items. This is non-negotiable. It is not a surprise. I have said it and if we don’t have exclusion, we will have no agreement,” she said.

The French demands – with the traditional focus on cultural issues – indicate the delicate balance EU negotiators will need to strike to broker a deal. Officials and other EU governments are concerned that keeping certain sectors away from talks could encourage the US to draft its own ‘red lines’.

Irish business and employment minister, John Bruton, who chaired the meeting, struck a more optimistic tone. Ministers had made “real progress towards achieving an agreement,” he said.

De Gucht and Mike Froman, International trade advisor to Barack Obama, were also present at Thursday’s talks. Froman’s presence marks the first time that a US government representative has discussed EU-US trade policy directly with trade ministers.

Officials in Brussels have been talking up the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US which they say could be worth as much as 0.5 per cent of EU GDP and create 400,000 jobs.

A recent paper by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), a London-based think tank, indicating that a US trade deal could increase EU economic output by up to €119 billion a year, the equivalent of €545 a year for the average family of four.

But failure to go beyond agreement on tariff barriers would lead to economic gains of no more than €23.7 billion, according to the CEPR. Liberalising the services market and public procurement rules would be worth an additional €5.3 billion and €6.4 billion.

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Obama Expresses Guarded Optimism On U.S.-EU Trade Deal, But Sees No Guarantee

Article from Inside Trade, 12 March 2013 – President Obama today (March 12) said he was “modestly optimistic” that the U.S. and European Union can successfully conclude a trade deal but emphasized that there is no guarantee it can be done.

“There is no guarantee that in the end some of the countries that have been hard cases in the past won’t block [a trade agreement] again, but I think that you’re going to see more pressure from more countries on the other side of the Atlantic to get this done than we have seen in the past,” Obama told the President’s Export Council (PEC).

This internal pushback in the EU is one of three reasons that Obama cited for why a deal is possible when it has not been in the past.

The second reason he cited is a recognition throughout Europe that it is hard for them to find a recipe for growth in an era of austerity measures. “So I think they are hungrier for a deal than they have been in the past,” Obama said.

The third reason he cited is the fact that the two sides have already made progress on resolving some difficult issues., “thanks to the work of good people like [Deputy National Security Adviser] Mike Froman.”

“We’ve identified on the regulatory side, customs side, areas where we can synchronize without hurting either side, but simply lubricating more effective trade between the two countries,” Obama said. Nevertheless, he said, the negotiations will still be “a heavy slog.”

In the past, the EU had to pursue agreements that were lowest common denominator given the differences among its member states, Obama said. “There are certain countries whose agricultural sector is very strong, who tended to block at critical junctures the kinds of broad-based trade agreements that would make it a good deal for us,” he said.

He made clear that it is unacceptable for the U.S. to keep agriculture out of the agreement. “If one of the areas where we’ve got the greatest comparative advantage is cordoned off from an overall trade deal, it’s very hard to get something going,” he said.

Obama laid out the benefits of completing an agreement with the EU, particularly in the regulatory area, saying an agreement could expand trade with Europe substantially. He called on business and labor to support these efforts.

“In order for us to do this, we’re going to need the help of industry and labor and all the parties that are represented here [at the PEC],” he said.

The president also highlighted the importance of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, once again touting it as a high standards agreement that would set the bar for ensuring that trade is fair.

“And for those of us who abide by high labor standards and high environmental standards, obviously being able to lock in those kinds of high standards in the fastest-growing region of the world and the most populous region of the world can yield enormous benefits and help to generate billions of dollars in trade and millions of jobs,” Obama said.

He said that exports and trade are “one brick in the broader economic foundation that we’re trying to build.”

The president’s appearance coincided with the European Commission approving a draft negotiating mandate and sending it to the member states for approval in the hopes that the negotiations will begin before summer break.