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MEPs vote to exclude culture from trade talks with US

By Toby Vogel  -  23.05.2013 / 15:16 CET
Parliament adopts non-binding resolution asking that audiovisual sector be exempt from transatlantic trade liberalisation.
The European Parliament has demanded that cultural and audiovisual services be excluded from negotiations on a free-trade agreement between the European Union and the United States that are expected to start before the summer.  

MEPs approved the call for an exemption with 381 in favour and 191 against, with 17 abstentions, in Strasbourg today (23 May).  

The exemption has split the Parliament's largest group, of the centre-right European People's Party.  

Marielle Gallo, a French MEP from the EPP, said: “The cultural exception is a European, a French specificity that cannot be put into doubt by a free-trade agreement. It is non-negotiable.”  

Gallo said that the imbalance between cultural exports suggested that Europe would gain nothing from liberalisation. She said that the US exported audiovisual services worth $7.5 billion to Europe in 2010 while just $1.8bn worth of services were traded in the other direction.  

But Daniel Caspary, a German centre-right MEP who is the EPP's trade spokesman, said: “We want to negotiate with the United States on a par, and in an atmosphere of mutual trust. Real friends such as Europe and the US are able to talk about difficult topics. This is just the beginning, where we must be able to speak openly about all topics for which the EU is responsible.”  

The call for a cultural exemption found support across the aisle.  

Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the group of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said: “This is of major importance to us. We fully support a forward-looking trade and investment agreement with the US, but when negotiating, the Commission must know that the European Parliament has a strong opinion on preserving cultural diversity. This relates both to existing but also to future media platforms.”  

Yannick Jadot, a French Green, fired a broadside at trade talks: “The Commission is sadly simply guided by a dogmatic belief in trade liberalisation, with little regard for EU standards. Commissioner De Gucht himself has stated that everything is on the table. The result poses a real threat to core EU standards and rules, whether as regards the protection of the cultural sector and public services, intellectual property and data protection, food safety, GMOs, geographical indications, health and environmental standards... the risks are many. The US is much better organised in terms of economic and industrial policy and will have no qualms about defending its narrow interests.”  

But a separate vote saw broad support for the start of trade talks, with 460 votes in favour, 105 against and 28 abstentions. Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, welcomed that resolution. “Negotiations on a free-trade agreement between the European Union and the United States should start as soon as possible, because a deal will bring huge benefits to both sides,” Schulz said.  

Neither resolution is binding on the Council of Ministers, which is expected on 14 June to adopt a negotiating mandate for the European Commission. 
 
Any trade agreement will require ratification by the European Parliament.
© 2014 European Voice. All rights reserved.
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