UK's Cameron urges "everything on table" in U.S.-EU trade talks

Reuters News
Posted: May 13, 2013 12:50 PM

By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday said a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and United States should cover all sectors, drawing a contrast with France, which wants to leave out sensitive cultural industries.

"To realize the huge benefits this deal could bring will take ambition and political will. That means everything on the table, even the difficult issues, and no exceptions," Cameron said at a White House news conference with President Barack Obama.

France last month threatened to block the proposed free trade talks unless cultural sectors, such as television and radio, were excluded from the agreement.

The European Parliament's influential trade committee voted a week later to leave all of Europe's cultural and audiovisual services out of the negotiations due to start in July, a decision that will shape the negotiating mandate to be agreed on by trade ministers from the EU's 27 member states.

The Motion Picture Association of America, in comments filed last week with the U.S. Trade Representative's office, urged the United States not to agree to any "up-front, blanket sectoral exclusions," but acknowledged EU sensitivities on the issue and said there were limits to what it expected from the talks.

"We recognize the importance of cultural diversity and the contribution the audio-visual sector makes to achieve that goal ... We want, in particular, to make clear we are not calling into question existing EU or national financial support measures and mechanisms for the audio-visual sector," the industry group said.


Britain, which is in the midst of a national debate over whether to stay in the EU, is hosting the annual summit meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrial economies next month in Northern Ireland.

That gives Cameron a high-profile platform to help shape the negotiating mandate for the talks with the United States and to shore up support in Britain for remaining in the EU.

Leading EU states Germany, France and Italy are also members of the G8 along with Japan, Russia and Canada. The presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, two EU executive branch institutions, also attend G8 summits.

"President Obama and I have both championed a free trade deal between the European Union and the United States. And there's a real chance now to get the process launched in time for the G-8. So, the next five weeks are crucial," Cameron said.

Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU and hold a referendum on membership if he wins the next election in 2015. But that has failed to stop his party's divisions over Europe or halt the rise of the anti-EU UK Independence Party.

Asked if the United States was concerned over Britain's possible exit from the EU, Obama said the issue was ultimately one for the British people to decide but he backed Cameron's plea for time to make reforms.

"I will say this, that David's basic point that you probably want to see if you can fix what's broken in a very important relationship before you break it off makes some sense to me," Obama said.

"I think the U.K.'s participation in the EU is an expression of its influence and its role in the world, as well as, obviously, a very important economic partnership," he said.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Vicki Allen and Cynthia Osterman)