News / Economy

Cultural Exception a Sticking Point in Trans-Atlantic Trade Talks

French actress Berenice Bejo, right, and Belgian director Lucas Belvaux address the media at the European parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, June 11, 2013, after their meeting with EU officials asking that audiovisual services be kept off the table during upcoming EU-US free-trade negotiations.
French actress Berenice Bejo, right, and Belgian director Lucas Belvaux address the media at the European parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, June 11, 2013, after their meeting with EU officials asking that audiovisual services be kept off the table during upcoming EU-US free-trade negotiations.
Lisa Bryant
Negotiations get under way Monday between Washington and Europe to strike the world's largest free trade agreement. While talks are shadowed by European anger at the U.S. Prism surveillance program, there are plenty of other potential roadblocks, including France's demand for a "cultural exception" protecting Europe's movie, television and online entertainment sector. 

A summer evening in eastern Paris. People are out picnicking and playing the traditional French game of boules and buying tickets for an evening show at the local cinema. The current lineup includes several new French movies.

But Morelle and Xavier Dupuis have other plans.

Superman: Man of Steel is the couple's hands-down choice. The two are in their 30s, and Morelle Dupuis said they grew up with Superman -- he's their hero.

French film The Artist may have swept Hollywood's Academy Awards last year, but across Europe, American movies, radio and TV programs are dominating the airwaves and movie theaters.

Even in France, which sets quota requirements favoring French productions, some of the most popular movies and television shows are produced by Hollywood.

Now, as trade talks get under way between the European Union and Washington for a massive free trade agreement, France's insistence for a "cultural exception" may prove a key sticking point.

Not surprisingly, the battle for cultural exception has galvanized Europe's movie industry. The Artist star Berenice Bejo made a passionate defense of it at the European Parliament.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2013.European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2013.
x
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2013.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2013.
'Reactionary' remark

But the cultural clause has even proved controversial in Europe. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, for one, has criticized as "reactionary" those in France who are against globalization.

Barroso did not specifically mention the French government, and later he said that culture should be accorded specific treatment in the trade talks.

But in an interview with French media, Barroso said that a resounding majority of EU member states supported the commission's position not to exclude any particular category ahead of the trade talks.

Nonetheless, outrage at Barroso's "reactionary" remark has resounded across France's political landscape, from far right leader Marine Le Pen to Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Addressing French parliament, Ayrault said championing cultural exception was not reactionary. To the contrary, it was a necessary affirmation of the world's cultural diversity, which even Barroso must accept.

But as far as French analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges is concerned, the campaign for cultural exception has already been defeated.

"You must look at the screens in Paris - so many American movies. It's clear that Hollywood is present everywhere. And cultural exception will not change that," he said.

Still, the Dupuis, for one, believe there should be a cultural exception clause in the talks - despite their differences over the quality of French cinema.

The couple said that such an exception would allow young French actors to emerge and flourish.

Another movie goer, Helene Bugaut, agreed.

Bugaut said the government was right to help French production, since the world was dominated by English speakers. She said she watched lots of French movies.

But not tonight. Like the Dupuis, Bugaut has bought a ticket for Superman.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7878
JPY
USD
106.98
GBP
USD
0.6230
CAD
USD
1.1220
INR
USD
61.226

Rates may not be current.