Facing a victorious home crowd, Dan Glickman played it diplomatically in Gaul on Friday while warning there will be conflict if a new UNESCO convention leads to restrictions on Hollywood’s exports around the world.
The French-led pact on cultural diversity — approved in Paris Thursday by 148 nations, with only the U.S. and Israel against — “creates very significant ambiguity with the existing world trade system.”
That was “a perfect prescription for litigation and trouble,” the MPAA topper told an annual Gallic film industry confab organized by the Societe des Auteurs Realisateurs et Producteurs, which reps filmmakers.
Alluding to other French and U.S. commercial battles, the MPAA topper argued that for some countries, agricultural products such as “wine or cheese” were considered of enormous cultural significance, too.
Beaune, setting of the weekend-long confab, is the capital of France’s world-famous Burgundy wine-growing region.
“This is a complicated subject, and we need to work together to resolve these problems,” Glickman said.
His speech was received with polite applause — despite agitation in the hall after French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres reminded attendees that Hollywood movies rep 85% of global ticket sales.
“That leaves only 15% for the other 4.2 billion people on this earth. That’s very dangerous for Americans and for us,” helmer Pierre Jolivet said to loud cheers from the audience.
But while Glickman took a soft approach, avoiding direct confrontation with his Gallic hosts, he toughened his tone when speaking to journalists afterward, promising “As long as I’m in this job, I’m not going to let them drive down the American film industry. That would be wrong.”
He added, however, “Right now, I don’t see that (the convention) has any teeth to it. … I think there is a lot more time to talk about it.”
UNESCO pact, which requires signatory countries to protect and promote their cultural industries — with measures that could include subsidizing or imposing quotas where they deem fit — must be ratified by the governments of 30 countries before it officially comes into effect.
Even after that, it is far from clear that it will make an ounce of difference to existing international trade rules.
These are governed by the World Trade Organization — a body with powerful economic means to sanction countries that don’t respect its rules.
Rice issues threat
But America is so concerned about the convention’s potential to harm U.S. film and TV exports that Condoleezza Rice recently addressed a letter to the foreign ministers of UNESCO member states urging them to vote it down.
In words that some have criticized as a thinly veiled threat, Rice reminded them that after a 19-year absence, the U.S. rejoined the U.N.’s culture and education org only in 2003 — but it provides 22% of its budget.