Senior EU officials said late Friday that EU member states had reached an agreement to grant a mandate to the European Commission for negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States.
While hailing the agreement on the mandate, European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht had to admit at a press conference after nearly ten hours' discussion that "at this moment of time, the audio-visual sector will not be in the mandate."
"The Commission, according to the EU treaties, may make recommendations to the European Council on possible additional negotiating directives on any issue with the same procedure requiring additional negotiating mandate from EU member states," he added.
"That in fact means that we will come back to the matter on the basis of what is happening during the negotiation," De Gucht told reporters.
The partial mandate is a result of determined opposition from France which has been insisting that it will not allow the transatlantic negotiations to begin unless the European Commission agreed to take all audio-visual issues off the table in advance.
French Minister for Foreign Trade Nicole Bricq told a meeting of EU officials that if further opened up to the U.S., the survival of its cultural sectors would be at risk, as U.S. companies would bring along "technological revolutions" that French companies would find it difficult to adapt.
A trade deal between the U.S. and the EU, together making up half of global economic output and a third of all trade, could boost the EU economy by 119 billion euros (about 159 billion U.S. dollars) per year, and the U.S. economy by 95 billion euros, according to an EU-commissioned study.
The U.S. insisted that no industry be excluded from the talks and have warned the EU that any attempt to carve out "special French exemptions" could trigger similar exclusions on the American side.