The European Union and the U.S. are expected to begin discussions later this year that could result in the removal of trade barriers between the world’s two biggest economies by October 2014. But, in an uproar reminiscent of the tensions surrounding the 1993 GATT talks, European filmmakers are up in arms over a perceived threat to their “cultural exception.”
Last month, the European Commission adopted a draft negotiation mandate that includes the audiovisual and film industries in the proposed talks with the U.S. Their inclusion, which goes against the cultural exception’s raison d’être of treating cultural goods and services differently than others, led dozens of filmmakers last week to sign a petition entitled “The Cultural Exception Is Non-Negotiable!” Signatories include Michael Haneke, Michel Hazanavicius, Pedro Almodovar, Stephen Frears, Roger Michell, Costa Gavras, Paolo Sorrentino, Thomas Vinterberg and Cristian Mungiu as well as non-European directors Walter Salles, Jane Campion and David Lynch.
The cultural exception has its roots in 1993 when a furor erupted as Hollywood, notably led by late MPAA chief Jack Valenti, wanted to include the audiovisual industries in the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) negotiations. Europe, led by France, balked. Member states claimed that including the arts would threaten their quota and subsidy systems and put them in danger of total Hollywood hegemony. Hours from the deadline, a deal was struck and Europe got its way. (more…)