French fear of US trade deal 'reactionary', Barroso says
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European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has criticised French moves to protect EU cultural industries as "reactionary" ahead of upcoming talks on a massive EU free trade agreement with the United States.
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso has criticised French moves to protect Europe's film and cultural industries as "reactionary" ahead of upcoming negotiations on a major EU free trade agreement with the United States.
"Some say they belong to the left, but in fact they are culturally extremely reactionary," the Commission president said in an interview with the "International Herald Tribune" published on Monday.
Without specifically naming France, Barroso said that those fearful of a US cultural invasion of Europe "have an anti-cultural agenda".
Such fears indicate "no understanding of the benefits that globalisation brings, also from a cultural point of view," he added.
Hollande said on Monday that he found Barroso’s remarks “hard to believe”.
The unusually harsh criticism from Barroso followed marathon talks Friday between the bloc's 27 trade ministers to agree on the terms of the Commission's mandate to negotiate the EU-US trade agreement, which would be the biggest free trade deal in the world.
France insisted on a cultural exception that would exclude the audiovisual sector from the negotiations. After 13 hours of talks, a compromise was reached agreeing to French demands while stating that the Commission could review the issue later if necessary.
"I am going to listen to what my American friends say on this [and] then we can ... ask for additional mandates" if needed, said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
EU officials have repeatedly warned that excluding any economic sector could hand the US an early bargaining chip in what promise to be tough negotiations.
Washington says no areas should be excluded from the talks.
Ministers were under intense pressure to agree to the guidelines on which the European Commission will negotiate the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) so the talks could be formally launched at the G8 meeting starting on Monday.
If a deal is struck, it will establish the world's largest free trade arrangement, with bilateral trade in goods last year worth some €500 billion ($670 billion) and another €280 billion in services. Trillions of euros flow between the bloc and the United States in annual investment.
The EU says a trade deal would add some €119 billion euros to the EU economy a year and would result in a €95 billion annual boon for the United States.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)