BRUSSELS — Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti said Monday he hoped to persuade the European Community to include films and television programming in the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs.
“I didn’t come here brandishing six-guns in both hands,” Valenti said in a telephone interview after meeting with European external trade commissioner Sir Leon Brittan and information commissioner Jao de Deus Pinheiro.
But Valenti warned that the U.S. Congress would not accept a GATT agreement that exempted the audiovisual sector from free-trade rules.
Stressing that the meeting wasn’t a negotiating session, Valenti said the U.S. and EC should discuss joint ventures to prepare for a global movie industry that would emerge over the next three years as a result of new delivery systems.
Valenti said he emphasized the need for competition, freedom of choice and commercial as well as cultural films.
In the last 10 years the number of people viewing U.S. films in EC cinemas fell by 15%, against 58% for EC films.
“That’s the result of individual consumer choice,” Valenti said.
The EC wants exemption from GATT free-trade rules for its scheme to aid “television without frontiers” and to keep preferential cultural links with certain non-EC countries.
“It’s a sensitive sector and needs special treatment,” a commission spokesman said.
The commission is worried that U.S. exports are swamping the community’s audiovisual industry.
Some 81% of feature films and 54% of TV programs shown in the EC are of U.S. origin, the commission estimates.
Eurocinema, the French film producers association, said after a meeting between Brittan and leaders of the EC audiovisual sector that it supported the EC stance.
“Eurocinema welcomes the commission’s moral commitment to efficiently defend the European audiovisual sector,” it said in a statement.