Hollywood Irate Over GATT Export Ban

`SOLD out.'' ``Betrayed.'' ``Outmaneuvered.''

The words of outraged Hollywood moguls continue to pepper airwaves and newspaper columns here in the wake of the news that the 117-country General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) accord excludes American film and TV products.

Some claim that the American entertainment industry will lose billions in potential foreign revenue. But those estimates are being challenged by others with calmer voices. They say Hollywood will recover in the long run because worldwide demand for first-rate studio productions, coupled with new technology and delivery systems, will soon antiquate current trade strictures.

``I don't know how long it will take, but market forces will eventually prevail,'' says Jonas Rosenfield, president of American Film Marketing Association in Los Angeles, which represents the independent sector of the American film industry. ``The ability of individual blocs of countries to control the dissemination of entertainment products is going to be significantly weakened within years.''

When the talks finally ended by Wednesday's deadline, the United States and European Union had agreed to disagree on several commodities. Besides movies, television, and music, civil aircraft and some shipping and financial services - such as banking and stock brokerage - were excluded. Those involved in the talks said it was primarily French officials who refused to budge on quotas - out of a perceived need to protect their own fragile entertainment industry.

``[President] Clinton and [US Trade Representative Mickey] Kantor basically sacrificed Hollywood's interest in the short term in hopes that they can work something else out later,'' says Brian Stonehill, a media analyst at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.

Jack Valenti, Motion Picture Association of America head, has led those denouncing the action.

``The European Community, our most important market, left us out in the cold,'' says Mr. Valenti, who has been highly vocal about the importance of GATT for seven years. ``The EC's refusal ... is blatant protectionism unmasked. [They] turned [their] back on the future.''

Observers here concur that GATT's attempt to pull Europe and America together in trade and culture spotlights deeply entrenched resistances over how to maintain separate cultural identities.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.