France sticks to GATT stand

French Culture Minister Jacques Toubon has reiterated that Paris is still trying to have film and television kept out of the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade. But the official acknowledged that the United States remains equally keen to keep them in.

This attitude reflects the uncertain status of the agreement, as the United States and European Community feel settling a key farm subsidy dispute is imminent while France says progress is inadequate.

Still, speaking to Daily Variety early Monday, Toubon said he remains “lionlike on GATT,” adding that he felt “confidence that the negotiators, our partners and our American partners are making progress towards a solution we wish.

“Putting audiovisual issues into GATT was unacceptable because it has an effect on our culture. I believe it will be resolved in the way we wish. We must obtain an international agreement which allows the liberalization of trade, which allows the support of television and cinema and allows them to continue to maintain their national role.”

But the culture minister appeared slightly less confident that France would get its way as he emerged from a Cabinet meeting later Monday. Asked to comment on the GATT negotiations, Toubon said Washington “isn’t givingin on anything” concerning European subsidies for films.

Close to agreement

Toubon was speaking as reports from Brussels suggested that the United States and European negotiators were close to an agreement on the contentious issue of farm subsidy cuts. Friday is the deadline for an agreement.

With the French maintaining their position that the European film and TV production industries require the maintenance of subsidies and television quotas — both of which they fear would be eroded if Paris loses the GATT argument — Toubon outlined new measures to support TV production in France Monday.

Presenting a 70-page report commissioned from the National Cinema Center, Toubon said failure to provide adequate support for indie TV producers would lead to their extinction within five to seven years.

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