In a letter to Mr. Bernard Cazeneuve, French Minister Delegate for European Affairs, attached to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity raised concerns about the treatment of audiovisual and cultural services in ongoing negotiations toward a Canada–EU trade agreement:
The French Coalition “[was surprised and deeply dismayed to learn], on Tuesday, November 13, in connection with a Brussels meeting between the European Commission [...] and civil society actors, that it appeared the Commission no longer intended to demand the horizontal exclusion of audiovisual services from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) currently being negotiated by Canada and the European Union”.
This change of position seemed unexplained for the French Coalition, given that “the European Commission has repeatedly pronounced itself in favor of exempting audiovisual services from the scope of negotiations with Canada, and this sector is expressly excluded from the negotiation mandate entrusted to the Commission by member states.” Moreover, the EU has systematically refused to include the audiovisual sector in trade agreements ever since the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations.
As for including audiovisual services on negative lists, an approach currently under consideration by the European Commission, the French Coalition is of the opinion that:
“[This approach] would, ipso facto, include audiovisual services in the services liberalized under the EU–Canada agreement—even if it left the door open for exclusion at a later date. Far from a mere change in negotiation technique, it would rather signal a veritable about-face in the policy direction pursued by the European Commission”.
“[...] Negative lists do not afford the same protection as horizontal exclusion. Listing sectors to include in Annex II will ultimately define and delimit their scope for future application, thereby hampering member states' ability to develop new policy and enabling trading partners to exert pressure to define the listed sectors as narrowly as possible and/or limit the scope of protection extended to listed sectors. The horizontal exclusion of the audiovisual sector, on the other hand, is desirable because it helps member states maintain their flexibility and avoid becoming embroiled in negotiations”.
The French Coalition further believes that, “as the trade negotiations with Japan and the United States of America are coming, as well as a multilateral agreement on services at the WTO, the stakes of this round of negotiations for the audiovisual sector [...] are considerable.” The French Coalition holds that “failing to exclude audiovisual services from EU–Canada negotiations will set a precedent that will be hard to disregard in future bilateral or multilateral agreements.”
For all these reasons [and in keeping with Canada and the EU's work to foster the diversity of cultural expressions] the French Coalition is calling for Minister Cazeneuve and his team to intervene on this matter immediately.
Mr. Cazeneuve responded on December 12, 2012, to the effect that he “was in full agreement with the arguments in [the French Coalition]'s letter, arguments stressing the need for the EU to maintain a stance consistent with both that taken in past negotiations and the European Commission's guidelines for CETA.”
The Minister also stressed that “horizontal exclusion is the best option to acknowledge the specificity of the audiovisual sector and avoid setting a precedent that may jeopardize future trade negotiations for countries whose interests are in line with those of France.”
In closing, Minister Cazeneuve reiterated France's commitment to “advocating for this stance before the European Commission and in other EU Council bodies, until negotiations are complete.”
To read both the letter sent to Bernard Cazeneuve and the Minister's response, please consult the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity website.