It’s the country that brought us “Amelie” and silver screen greats like Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu. But its insistence on its “cultural exception” could derail the planned start to talks to create the world’s largest free-trade area between the European Union and the United States — an initiative that has been strongly promoted by Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
For better or worse, I wouldn’t count on France changing its mind here. Not under François Hollande’s watch, anyway: he’s a pure product of France’s über-meritocratic and elitist education system.
The country has a long tradition of defending culture as some kind of mystic totem that doesn’t mix with money. François Mitterrand is occasionally cited in the Anglo-Saxon press as having initiated this, but I’d argue this is incorrect. It’s something that is much more engrained in French society. The precise reasons are anyone’s guess. That its culture radiated throughout Europe — and indeed the world — for several centuries is probably one of them.