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Transatlantic partnership/cultural exception

Published on June 13, 2013
Reply by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Prime Minister, to a question in the National Assembly (excerpts)

Paris, June 12, 2013

(…)

On Friday, the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) will include the mandate given to the European Commission to embark on negotiations with the United States with a view to a free trade agreement.

France is clearly in favour of international trade and economic exchanges, provided rules are clearly stated.

There have already been other free trade agreements with other countries which have brought positive results for growth and employment, provided those agreements are negotiated on the basis of a principle to which France is strongly committed: fair exchange.

In this initial discussion between France and the United States, several points must be resolved. France was not alone in stating, for example, that national defence-related trade must be excluded. On this point, we obtained a first positive result.

Regarding agriculture, too, we succeeded in changing the European Commission’s stance in order to prepare the negotiation mandate. This is the case with the rejection of GMOs, animal cloning, beef hormones and many other points I won’t set out in detail here.

A crucial issue remains, which you recalled: that of France’s constant support for the cultural exception and for defending the cultural industries. France has always believed this essential issue must be excluded – as is already the case in our relations with Canada and Japan –, and what is possible with other countries must also be so for the United States.

We’re fighting, and we’ll always fight to defend cultural diversity.

In this fight, we’re not alone. The President, Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti, Foreign Trade Minister Nicole Bricq, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Minister Delegate for European Affairs Thierry Repentin have constantly intensified contacts to secure this exclusion from the negotiation.

Fourteen European culture ministers have even signed an appeal on this point. As you recalled, the European Parliament made a statement to the same effect.

The question is simple. What mandate will Mme Nicole Bricq – who will be representing France at the European Council on Friday – have from the government? That mandate is clear, and France will oppose the opening of negotiations if the cultural industries are not protected – that is, excluded from the negotiations. France will go as far as to use her right of political veto.

It’s our identity; it’s our battle. We’re not alone, but spearheading it, with Parliament’s support./.

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