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

    US Watching as North Korea Holds Biggest Political Meeting in 36 Years

    Workers' Party Congress set for Friday; Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8742
    JPY
    USD
    107.09
    GBP
    USD
    0.6893
    CAD
    USD
    1.2820
    INR
    USD
    66.504

    Rates may not be current.