BRUSSELS — Divided on how to revive its stagnant economy and protect its culture from a feared onslaught by Hollywood, Europe must shun “reactionary” opposition to globalization, the head of the European Union’s executive arm said in a strikingly robust critique of French-led efforts to limit the scope of a trade pact with the United States.
José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, speaking before a meeting on Monday with President Obama and other leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations, described the commission as one of the “champions of trade liberalization in the world.”
Discussion of the proposed trans-Atlantic trade pact is expected at the G-8 meeting as a result of an agreement that EU trade ministers worked out in a marathon bargaining session Friday in Luxembourg. Barroso scorned a view, which France’s Socialist government successfully argued at that session, that Europe’s movie and television industries, at least initially, must be excluded from the trade negotiations to protect the region’s cultural diversity.
“It’s part of this antiglobalization agenda that I consider completely reactionary,” Barroso said, adding he believed in protecting cultural diversity but not in sealing Europe off. “Some say they belong to the left, but in fact they are culturally extremely reactionary.”
At a meeting of EU trade ministers Friday in Luxembourg, France cleared the way for the European Commission to begin negotiations with the United States on a free-trade pact. But the French trade minister, Nicole Bricq, secured a pledge that the talks, at least initially, would not cover movies, television shows, and other audiovisual products. Discussion of these would require a further decision by EU states at a later stage.
This agreement does not end the debate but does lift a cloud hanging over the G-8 meeting. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, the host of the meeting, hopes to inaugurate negotiations on the trans-Atlantic trade deal and to get commitments from the other G-8 countries to agree to cooperate more closely on issues including taxation and the transparency of multinational companies’ earnings.