French minister vows to safeguard culture

Trautmann to keep 'audiovisual sector' out of Trade talks

PARIS — French Culture Minister Catherine Trautmann has reiterated that Paris will do its best to keep cultural matters, including film and TV, out of the upcoming General Agreement on Trade in Services international talks, set to begin this November in Seattle.

Speaking at the annual Communication University, a four-day gathering of French industry execs and government reps outside Bordeaux, Trautmann said the French government would push for “an exclusion of the audiovisual sector in the negotiations.”

In the early 1990s, France entered into a verbally bruising — but ultimately successful — battle with Washington when it insisted that film and TV, which are subsidized in France, be kept out of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) discussions.

European protectionism

The French position, which has some support within the European Union, is that Europe needs to continue to support its film and TV industries if they are not to be crushed by Hollywood powerhouses.

Indications are that this position will meet less opposition from the U.S. majors than was the case in the GATT talks.

Franco-American film relations suffered so badly during GATT that Motion Picture Assn. of America chairman Jack Valenti spent the better part of two years rebuilding cultural bridges and he has shown no signs of wanting to go to battle again on the “exclusion” issue.

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