Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why do the French insist on their ‘cultural exception’?

By David Ellwood September 25th, 2013
Is French culture exceptional, exceptionalist, or just… unique? The question was raised again this year by the row which broke out just before the start of US-EU trade talks. The French government insisted that cultural products, particularly film and television, should be left out of the negotiations due to their special status as timeless acts of artistic creation. So, said Paris, they should be considered beyond and outside the hard rules of market-driven commerce, so overwhelmingly favourable to the scale and priorities of America’s creative industries. This position was greeted with derision by a wide selection of Anglo-American commentators in politics, business, and the media. Most of the critics choose to forget or ignore what lay behind this very French-looking story. But Europe and America had been here before.
In 1993, as the GATT process was about to give way to the new World Trade Organisation, President Mitterand and a wide array of French, European, and even some American film makers threw the entire procedure into disarray by insisting on what they called the ‘cultural exception’. GATT, they said, had always recognized that culture should not be regulated like bananas or machine tools. But by now wider issues had arisen to justify this position and ensure its relevance. Mitterand said:- See more at:

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