M. Jacques Chirac, président de la République française, Hanoi, 7 octobre 2004 – 2004/10/07
In a discussion with Vietnamese s tudents at the French Cultural Center in Hanoi, Jacques Chirac defended France’s efforts to promote cultural diversity, notably within the WTO. Mr. Chirac’s meeting with the students came on the second day of a state visit to Vietnam in the leadup to the ASEM-5 summit, which opened October 8. He took advantage of the opportunity to talk about some of his favorite themes: cultural diversity, sustainable development, and the fight against global poverty. Presenting himself as the advocate of diversity, he warned against American hegemony and the “global subculture” that it would leave in its wake.
Pointing to U.S. pressure within the WTO to eliminate state assistance to the cultural sector, he noted that France is opposed to the U.S. position, particularly with respect to “cultural diversity.” “Our American friends […] argue that ‘countries cannot financially support their own culture, literature, cinema, and media because it skews the market.’ But cultural products are not goods in the regular sense. They deserve our respect and support because it is through them that a society expresses itself artistically. This is paramount. It is the reason why not only France, but the European Union, the Francophonie, and many other countries are fighting to have cultural goods recognized as distinct. This is what we call ‘cultural diversity.’” Mr. Chirac went on to argue that “under the opposite scenario, all other cultural expressions would eventually be choked off by American culture, which has a tendency to wipe out other cultures. As a result, we run the risk of smothering other forms of cultural production and asphyxiating all forms of cultural expression, leaving American culture free to rule the roost and impose a single global subculture.” By the same token, “if we end up in a world with only one language, it would mean only one culture.” This would be “a veritable ecological disaster.”
Mr. Chirac noted that only with government assistance can domestic film industries compete against the powerful American economy. It is a battle against the approach favored by the U.S., where companies have the economic clout to capture markets without government assistance. Vietnam, which has applied for WTO membership with France’s support, has yet to release its position on this issue, noted Mr. Chirac. ( French, English, Spanish )