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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
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 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 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.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7893
JPY
USD
107.68
GBP
USD
0.6238
CAD
USD
1.1214
INR
USD
61.185

Rates may not be current.