U.s-ec Talks Down To 1 Issue

December 08, 1993|By New York Times News Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- With arguments resolved over wheat and corn subsidies, and exports of pig meat and skimmed milk powder, the world trade talks came down to this yesterday: Can the United States tolerate France's determination to go on protecting and subsidizing its movie industry in order to stave off a perceived Hollywood onslaught from the likes of "Jurassic Park" and "Terminator 2"?

After almost 23 hours of negotiations with the European Community's chief negotiator Monday and yesterday, the answer from U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor was no.

He then left Brussels to explain his views to world trade negotiators in Geneva, before returning to Washington. Mr. Kantor intended to continue talks in Europe, but it was not immediately clear when they would resume.

Although Mr. Kantor said there was still sufficient time to wrap up an accord, the former Hollywood lawyer said he would stand firm on trying to abolish France's box-office levies on foreign-made movies, which it uses to subsidize French filmmaking.

His declaration came after the marathon negotiations with the Europeans had engineered a settlement on the long-divisive agriculture issues that the French, long intransigent on farm issues, had finally approved.

There was one clear victory for Mr. Kantor yesterday. After years of a Japanese ban on rice imports, Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa said in Tokyo that he would reluctantly open the market to foreign rice, removing a stumbling block to the conclusion of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) talks by the Dec. 15 deadline.

The agreement on farm trade had significantly raised hopes that the European Community and the United States would declare a trade peace, substantially clearing the way for completion of the seven-year-long world trade talks, which are intended to lift tariffs and revive the world economy.

On Dec. 15, President Clinton's authority to frame an accord and send it to Congress for an up-or-down, no-amendments vote expires.

But with differences between Europeans and Americans persisting, uncertainty hovered around the negotiations under GATT, even though powerful momentum appeared to have gathered on both sides of the Atlantic.

"We have made so much progress and so much is at stake, it simply can't be possible that a deal of this magnitude will not be finalized," said Sir Leon Brittan, the European Community's negotiator.

Long overshadowed by the fight over farm issues in the world trade talks, the simmering conflict over movies, television programs and musical recordings is gaining prominence in Brussels.

The issue has contrived to channel old French convictions about the crassness of American movies and television, and new French economic and cultural insecurity, into a single crusade, the theme of which was bluntly expressed by the actor and singer Renaud: "It's 'Dallas' or French creativity."

The United States, in turn, has become increasingly angry at what it sees as France's attempt to provide unfair protection and financing for its film industry while indulging in a wave of anti- Americanism thinly disguised behind pious expressions of concern for the future of European culture.

"No Uruguay Round of trade talks will be finalized," Mr. Kantor insisted, "unless this issue is resolved."

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