By June 12, 2013 Read More →
France to Oppose EU-US Trade Pact if the ‘Cultural Exception’ is not Honoured

France to Oppose EU-US Trade Pact if the ‘Cultural Exception’ is not Honoured

France, the EU’s second largest economy, has threatened to veto any trade agreement with the United States which does not honour the so-called ‘cultural exception’. The cultural exception is a concept which was originally introduced by France in 1993 during negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). It  seeks to protect culture (and more specifically, the products which embody it) from being treated as an ordinary commercial good.

With regard to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), France would like to see comprehensive protection for European film, TV and radio industries. According to French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq, France is pursuing these exemptions not  only because TV, film and radio are cultural products in the classical sense, but also because they are “a mark of European identity.” According to Ms Bricq, the latest draft of the negotiation mandate still includes audio-visual services. While member states do not have the authority to block the negotiation process at this stage, any final agreement will require the assent of all EU member countries.

France is not alone in its efforts to gain exemption for the audio-visual sector, as was made clear in a communiqué issued by the French Ministry of Culture:

On the initiative of the Minister of Culture and Communication, Aurélie Filippetti, the majority of European culture ministers have joined France’s efforts by co-signing a letter addressed to the Irish EU presidency and to the European Commission. The text was signed by the Austrian, Belgian, Bulgarian, Cypriot, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovenian, Slovak and Spanish culture ministers.

In the letter, 14 European states, representing the vast majority of the EU’s population, unequivocally demand, through their culture ministers, that “the EU’s constantly-reaffirmed position – which, both at the World Trade Organization and in bilateral negotiations, has always excluded audio-visual services from any commitment to trade liberalization – should be fully maintained. (…) It is a complete policy of the EU and its member states and it would be compromised if the exclusion we demand were not guaranteed. (…) More broadly, the same is true for our ability to choose and enact our legislation and regulation in the face of technological and economic changes.

Last year, France handed out €770 million in subsidies to its domestic film industry.

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(Wikimedia Commons image courtesy of Alberto Korda)

About the Author:

Sebastian Andrei is NABATAEANS’ editor for EU - Middle East Trade and Political Relations. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Vienna, where he majored in journalism with minors in political science as well as business and economics. Sebastian is responsible for reporting on the European Union’s external trade relations. He also writes about economic development and investment opportunities in Europe as well as about policy changes which affect the EU common market.

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