Sunday

13th Jun 2021

Paris and Brussels in war of words on US trade

A senior French politician has said European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso should quit because he called France "reactionary" on trade.

Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, an MP in President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party and the vice president of the European Socialist Party, published the demand on his blog on Monday (17 June).

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  • Hollande arriving at the G8 summit on Monday (Photo: elysee.fr)

He described Barroso's remark as "astonishing and intolerable."

He added: "Nothing permits Jose Manuel Barroso to treat culture like a product in the name of globalisation … Mr Barroso should retract his comment or quit."

For her part, French culture minister Aurelie Filippetti told press in Paris that Barroso's remark was "absolutely lamentable … unacceptable."

Finance minister Pierre Moscovici told French radio that EU institutions "must respect" France.

Hollande himself, after arriving at the G8 summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, on Monday, also noted: "I do not believe that the President of the commission could hold notions about France which are formulated in this way, nor about the artists who have spoken out."

He said audiovisual services are routinely excluded from EU trade deals.

Referring to negotiations on an EU-US free trade pact, which were launched amid some fanfare at the G8 event, he added: "There is no reason that it should change this time around."

Barroso uttered the inflammatory word twice in an interview out on Sunday in US daily the International Herald & Tribune.

He told the paper: "It [France's position] is part of this anti-globalisation agenda that I consider completely reactionary … Some say they belong to the left, but in fact they are culturally extremely reactionary."

He added that people like Costa-Gavras, a French film director who criticised the EU-US pact, have "no understanding of the benefits that globalisation brings."

Barroso spoke with the paper last week ahead of talks by EU trade ministers in Luxembourg.

The 12-hour long debate saw France get an exemption on culture in the EU's negotiating mandate on the US deal.

The war of words is the second clash between Brussels and Paris in the space of a few weeks.

Hollande in May said Barroso "cannot dictate" economic reforms to France after the commission told him to overhaul the French pensions system.

Cambadelis at the time also said Barroso should resign.

In an angry blog post, he accused the commission chief of being a US lapdog who backed the 2003 Iraq war and of betraying the left-wing ideals of his youth. He later pulled the text off his webpage and posted a milder version.

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