France says it could scupper trade talks over culture rules

City A.M. Reporter
FRANCE has threatened to block the start of free trade talks between the European Union and the United States if films and digital media are not kept out of the negotiations.

Two days before EU countries are supposed to give the go-ahead for negotiations, France said it would veto the talks unless the sector – that it sees as crucial to its cultural identity and under threat from Hollywood – is excluded.

“France defends and will defend the cultural exception to the end – that’s a red line,” culture minister Aurelie Filippetti told Reuters TV, referring to current EU rules that allow governments to preserve cultural diversity by setting subsidies and quotas that might otherwise be considered contrary to free trade.

The first round of talks – which would seek to establish free trade for all manner of goods -–has been tentatively scheduled for July, but both sides must first agree the scope of the negotiations, something EU trade ministers are due to finalise today.

Meanwhile French rail workers walked out on strike yesterday, with up to 70 per cent of trains cancelled as a result.