ENNISKILLEN, United Kingdom - The EU and United States are set to launch negotiations on Monday to create the world's biggest free-trade pact despite a hard line by France to protect its film and culture sectors from Hollywood.
Such a deal is touted as a potentially huge boost to business, economic growth and job creation, but the culture issue is seen as potentially offering a bargaining chip to the US side.
President Barack Obama and European leaders gathered at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland prepared to announce the formal start of talks on the pact, just days after the EU thrashed out a last-minute deal to keep the French happy.
The head of the EU executive, Jose Manuel Barroso, told reporters that Obama and European leaders "will give the go-ahead" for the start of talks and said a deal would have huge potential.
"Two years ago, very few would have bet that the US and the EU would have been able to launch this free trade and investment partnership," Barroso said.
"This can be a game-changer, not just for the transatlantic area, the United States and Europe, but for the world," he said.
Barroso had earlier weighed in with an unusually outspoken criticism of France for its "reactionary" behaviour to defend its audiovisual and cultural industry.
"Some say they belong to the left, but in fact they are culturally extremely reactionary," the president of the European Commission said in an interview with the International Herald Tribune on Monday.