June 13 - With just hours to go until a crucial meeting to discuss the scope of multi-billion dollar trade talks between the EU and US, France has cast a long shadow over the proceedings. As Kirsty Basset reports, the country says it will use its veto if its film industry isn't protected.
In a world awash with the influence of Hollywood, the French film and television industry is something of an exception. It's seen as crucial to the country's cultural identity, and the government goes to extremes to protect it. But with free trade talks between Europe and the United States set to begin soon, France has come out fighting. French Culture Minister Aurelie Filipetti. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH CULTURE MINISTER AURELIE FILIPETTI SAYING: "France defends and will defend the cultural exception to the end - for the President and the whole government, that's a red line." At Cannes this year, a French film took home the festival's top prize. And at the Oscars last year, French black and white silent film "The Artist" won Best Picture, among other awards. Films such as these flourish through government subsidies, quotas and tax breaks. But a free trade agreement could jeopardise this system. Star of "The Artist" Berenice Bejo. (SOUNDBITE) (French) OSCAR-WINNING FRENCH ACTRESS BERENICE BEJO BERENICE BEJO SAYING: "I am worried: lots of films I make wouldn't have been made. 'The Artist' started off as a tiny film and would not have been produced if a complete freedom of exchange had been allowed with the United States. Would we still be able to produce films like that one which on paper didn't look as if it was going to make much money?" French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has weighed in - saying France will use its veto if necessary, during discussions. Director of the European Centre for International Political Economy, Frederik Erixon, says the industry is too small for it to be merely an economic issue. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIRECTOR OF EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY (ECIPE), FREDRIK ERIXON, SAYING: "This is much more of a political issue, an issue that is driven by a French politician that wants to communicate some sort of loyalty to French culture." He also says the talks have already got off to the wrong start. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIRECTOR OF EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY (ECIPE), FREDRIK ERIXON, SAYING: "If Europe is going to start for exemptions or covers for negotiations, then America will do the same. The problem when you start a trade negotiation on that note, you end up with very little substance at the end." EU trade ministers are due to finalise the scope of the trade negotiations on Friday. There needs to be unanimous agreement before the talks can go ahead in July, something that's looking increasingly unlikely at this stage.