French Fried Farmers Angry over United States Global Influence

The Florida Times Union, September 9, 1999 | Go to article overview

French Fried Farmers Angry over United States Global Influence


DEAUVILLE, France -- Movie stars arriving at the annual American Film Festival in this Normandy resort town over the weekend heard more than the usual squealing of fans.

On the chic beach boardwalk, cow mooed and pigs grunted. The impetus behind the display: 200 French farmers, all of whom gathered here with their livestock to protest American trade muscle and what they see as the creeping threat of U.S.-driven globalization.

The farmers, carrying signs reading "Vive le Camembert" and "Hormone Beef Go Home," singled out the film festival because of its American connections. The protest was only one of a wave of anti-American demonstrations that have hit McDonald's restaurants and other symbols of U.S. influence over the past month.

The protests range from farmers trashing McDonald's franchises to 100 percent "taxes" on Coca-Cola in certain towns.

They reflect a simmering French hostility toward U.S. global influence. France has long sought to preserve its cultural and political identity, whether by remaining outside of NATO's military command or limiting the number of American shows on TV.

"The Americans came to help us 50 years ago," said Hilaire Taillecours, 62, who raises cows and grows wheat on his 125-acre Normandy farm. "But that doesn't mean they can tell us what to eat and how to film."

The outcry against the spread of globalization -- the buzzword for the American model of a free-market-driven, borderless world economy -- comes as France itself is bowing to economic pressures by selling state assets and supporting corporate megamergers.

While the French are increasingly accepting the rule of market forces, and eagerly flocking to American movies and chain stores, the current dispute hits them where they are the most sensitive: the stomach.

"In France, food equals identity," said Guillaume Parmentier, who heads the French Center on the United States, a new, private Paris think tank. "There is a growing fear of being taken over by new types of technology and a general ambivalence toward globalization, of which McDonald's has become a symbol. …

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