A petition signed by 80 European film-makers demanding that Brussels exclude audiovisual media from negotiations on a free trade agreement between the EU and the US was sent to the European Commission on April 22. Treaty talks are scheduled to begin this summer.
The film-makers hope – Belgian and French in the lead – to defend the "cultural exception" which allows restricting the free trade of culture on the market and allows each country to promote its own works.
The Commission "is accused by the cinema world of having a simply 'free trade' view of culture," notes French financial daily Les Echos, adding that for the film-makers, "culture should be a source [of unity] for the Union at a time when political Europe is 'ailing.'"
The accusation triggered a sharp reaction from Brussels with European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht promising in a press release that "the cultural exception will not be negotiated". His spokesperson explained that this does not exclude audiovisual media from the negotiations.
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Les Echos notes that this is not the first time the world of cinema has risen up –
In 1993, during the renegotiations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) accords, the predecessor to the World Trade Organisation, film-makers did not hesitate to hire an airplane to fly to Brussels to argue their point against the US onslaught, which wanted to assimilate culture to a packaged good just like any other. Twenty years later, they are ready to repeat the operation.
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