France Threatens Veto of U.S-E.U. Trade Talks

Jean-Marc Ayrault Headshot - P 2013
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Jean-Marc Ayrault Headshot - P 2013

Prime Minister says country will use veto if protections for film and media are not in place.

PARIS -- France is threatening to block the start of U.S.-E.U. trade talks if the “cultural exception” of film and digital media are not kept out of the negotiations. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told a session of Parliament: “France will not hesitate to use its veto.”

“France has always believed that this issue should be set aside, as is the case in relations with Canada and Japan. It should be possible with the U.S. We oppose the opening of negotiations if the cultural industries are not protected and excluded from the agreement,” he said, framing it as a struggle for national identity. “We are fighting for the defense of cultural diversity, and we are not alone.”

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Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti seconded his sentiment.  France defends and will defend the cultural exception to the end – that’s a red line.”  Current E.U. rules allow countries special protections for their own media, a rule that allows France to support its heavily subsidized film and television industry.

France has long sought to protect the industry from the U.S. threat that is under heavy Hollywood fire.

The first round of talks are scheduled for July, but the parameters of the discussion have not yet been finalized and the cultural exception is not excluded so far. The decision is expected Friday, but France’s moves to influence the E.U. but have been consistently met with resistance.  These latest statements from the government indicate France will hold up the talks if their demands are not met.

A delegation of European filmmakers and actors including Costa Gavras and Berenice Bejo met with European Commission president Jose-Manuel Barroso Tuesday, to present a petition of over 7,000 signatories including directors Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Michael Haneke (Amour) and Pedro Almodovar (Volver) that want the exception to remain. Barroso said that he does not believe the exception should stand, and will support an alternative measure that would protect traditional media, but exclude digital or Internet content, VoD TV, film and music.