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EBU calls for EU-U.S. free-trade agreement to exclude audio-visual content

The European Broadcasting Union is calling on the European Union to exclude the region’s content-creation sector from its negotiations for a trade and investment partnership with the U.S.

“The audio-visual industry should be explicitly excluded from the European Union’s mandate to negotiate a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States,” said Ingrid Deltenre, the EBU’s director general.

The EBU contends that opening full free trade with the U.S. when it comes to audio-visual content could have “serious, adverse effects” on an industry that represents 4.5 percent of the EU’s GDP and employs 8 million people. As of 2008, the EU film and TV programming market was estimated to be worth 17 billion euros, World Screen reports.

“We need the EU to defend the interests of the European audio-visual sector, and to ensure that the mandate given to the European Commission for negotiating on behalf of the EU takes those interests into account,” Deltenre said. “The ability of the EU and Member States to support and stimulate the audiovisual sector needs to be maintained. This is all the more important as the sector is evolving in line with the technological and economic developments of the digital era.”

The U.S., the EBU maintains, has a built-in competitive advantage over the EU when it comes to the audiovisual industry, with a “bigger, more coherent and uniform (culturally and linguistically) market, leading to increased economies of scale and higher investment capabilities on average.” Furthermore, the U.S. exported $7.5 billion in audiovisual services to the EU in 2010—reverse trade was only $1.8 billion.

Formal negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are expected to begin at an EU-U.S. summit in Dublin in June, while the first round of talks are slated for July. The proposed free-trade agreement aims to boost economic and job growth by removing trade barriers between the two blocs, and promoting foreign direct investment between the U.S. and the European Union. It will remove all tariffs on a range of products and services traded between the U.S. and the EU.