GATT still on hold over TV and film

With the deadline for a liberalized world trade accord just a week from today, European and American negotiators Tuesday remained deadlocked over entertainment industry issues but insisted a resolution was in sight.

President Clinton reiterated Tuesday that the accord was a high priority, but he has assured showbiz execs that the industry won’t be left behind in the White House’s push to cut a deal by Dec. 15.

Negotiators don’t see a problem despite hard-line Euro insistence, particularly from the French, on excluding creative issues from any accord.

The failure to resolve differences over import restrictions on movies and TV shows and government subsidies for jetliner manufacturers came after the United States and European Community agreed on cutting farm subsidies, despite some grousing late Monday by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. The latter dispute had held up the world trade talks for years.

EC trade commissioner Sir Leon Brittan told BBC TV Tuesday night he didn’t think the two issues would derail the accord under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

U.S. trade rep Mickey Kantor said it would not be easy to find a solution, but he said, “We are close enough on both subjects that with good will on both sides we could reach a solution.”

There was “absolutely and without a doubt” time to wrap up an overall GATT deal, Kantor said.

“This is not a game,” he added. “We’re playing for jobs and growth and economic leadership in the world.”

But Kantor was flying back to Washington without meeting again with Brittan, and it remained unclear how the U.S. and EC negotiators could come to terms on the film and aircraft row.

Kantor maintained the U.S. had shown great flexibility in the audiovisual area, but the Europeans had been less flexible on remuneration for non-European artists.

Brittan said he and Kantor regarded audiovisual trade as a “temporary problem ,” but he did not say how it would be handled in a final Uruguay Round of talks, so named for the nation in which they originated.

“I remain totally convinced that the Uruguay Round can and must be completed in the time allocated to it,” Brittan said at a news conference at GATT headquarters in Geneva.

“The fact is that with the Americans we’ve reached agreement on almost everything but the one thing of the audiovisual,” he said, adding that even that issue is “80%” resolved.

Dec. 15 is the last day President Clinton can notify Congress of a proposed trade agreement under “fast-track” rules barring lawmakers from attaching amendments that could kill the accord.

The head of the GATT, Peter Sutherland, described the trans-Atlantic squabbles as “incredible folly.”

But after meeting with Kantor and Brittan, Sutherland acknowledged a partial agreement by America and Europe on several disputed issues would at least allow other nations to resume bargaining.

“I am sure they will urgently continue to try to resolve their outstanding differences,” Sutherland said in a statement.

At stake is a trade package that could add more than $ 200 billion annually to the sluggish global economy by cutting customs duties on imported goods, easing border controls and adopting tougher measures against unfair trading. It is the most ambitious trade reform package ever undertaken.

Many Europeans, notably the French, fear lowering barriers to entertainment programs would bring an invasion by Hollywood that could wipe out the local filmmaking industry.

The U.S. and EC also remain at odds over subsidies to aircraft manufacturers.

Washington has complained for years about government subsidies to Airbus Industrie, a consortium of companies from Britain, France, Spain and Germany that now rivals America’s plane-making giants, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.

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