June 14 - European Union trade ministers meet in Luxembourg in an attempt to overcome French resistance to free trade talks with the United States, which could boost the EU economy by 119 billion euros a year. As Kirsty Basset reports, France is not keen for the talks to go ahead unless protection for its film and television industry is kept off the table.
EU trade ministers gather in Luxembourg to hash out the scope of free trade talks with the United States. There's just one problem - France doesn't want to play ball, unless its film and television industry is excluded from any future deal. Irish Trade Minister Richard Bruton is chairing the talks. (SOUNDBITE) (English) IRISH MINISTER FOR JOBS, ENTERPRISE AND INNOVATION, RICHARD BRUTON, SAYING: "We will need all member states to come with a very positive attitude to make compromises and find an agreement. So, I am ambitious to get this agreement and I think no stone will be left unturned." A free trade deal with the United States could boost the EU economy by 119 billion euros a year. An attractive prospect, when much of western Europe is in recession. But France is worried about the potential impact of Hollywood on its culture. Going into the meeting, Finnish Trade Minister Alexander Stubb wasn't sure whether agreement with France would be reached. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FINNISH MINISTER FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS AND FOREIGN TRADE ALEXANDER STUBB SAYING: "I think there is a fifty-fifty chance. You know the aim of today is to try to find some kind of a solution which accommodates the French sensitivities, and we shall work very hard towards that, I think it would be very unfortunate if this had to be moved all the way to the European Council, but as I said nothing is excluded at this particular stage." Germany and Britain say it's vital to push ahead with what would be the world's biggest trade agreement, because of the economic benefits at stake. They also fear that if France is allowed to exclude an industry from talks, the U.S. will take one of its industries off the table, getting the talks off to the wrong start before they've even begun.