Cultural diversity

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Diversité culturelle : "Sortir du cadre de l’OMC"

M. Jacques Parizeau, ancien premier ministre du Québec, le 26 mars 2004 - 2004/03/26

In this speech, a follow-up to that of Louise Beaudoin, entitled “La Francophonie à l'avant-garde de la lutte pour la culture: marchandisation et diversité culturelle,” Mr. Parizeau asks the following question: “Are cultural products and services trade items, therefore falling under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and subject to its regulations, or are they expressions of cultural diversity, which should be governed by a different international organization (UNESCO, for instance) and subject to different regulations?” In answering this question, Mr. Parizeau stresses, “If we accept that cultural products and services should be subject to WTO regulations, it follows that every national cultural policy aimed at safeguarding cultural diversity would become illegal.” He states, “A national cultural policy is based on a principle that contradicts the WTO’s fundamental code: non-discrimination. A cultural policy is, by definition, discriminatory.” For example, quotas applied to foreign film distribution, quotas on broadcasting songs on the radio, national film subsidies, and publishing subsidies are based on the notion that artists from the native country should be treated “differently” than those from foreign countries.
According to Mr. Parizeau, “For cultural diversity to be maintained and to flourish, it requires rather large doses of discrimination.” He also maintains, “For a country, seeking to develop a national cultural policy within the framework of the WTO means that it will sooner or later expose itself to commercial or financial retaliation. We must therefore leave the WTO framework, establish regulations for creating national cultural policies, flag inevitable discrimination, and create a legally binding framework preventing cultural diversity from falling in with any type of practice.”  Referring back to UNESCO’s decision to create an International Convention on Cultural Diversity, he stresses that support for this decision set into motion an “irreversible movement” and notes, “The American administration, which is incapable of stopping this movement, is now trying to slow it down, perhaps stop it, or in any case, tone it down.” This explains the United States’ strategy aimed at increasing “bilateral trade agreements where each party agrees not to increase preferences or advantages granted to its cultural industries.” Mr. Parizeau maintains, “The free entry of textiles or fruit into the United States from another country is surely worth a few infringements on the development of cultural diversity.” (Available in French only)