Cultural diversity

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APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) mobilizes for WTO: “Restart free trade negotiations”

International Trade Canada, Ottawa, November 21, 2005 – 2005/11/21

Economic Leaders of the member economies of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathered in Busan, Korea, for the 13th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting under the 2005 theme, “Towards One Community: Meet the Challenge, Make the Change,” and reiterated the importance of the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific, and pledged to work towards this with the Busan Roadmap. Canada made its APEC priorities known at the meeting.

The 21 APEC members, who represent 45% of the world’s population, nearly 50% of world trade, and close to 60% of the world’s economy (world GDP), are still holding out hope for the WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Hong Kong from December 13 to 18, a conference that constitutes a major turning point in the Doha round of negotiations to be completed in 2006. APEC wrapped up its Summit by calling for a solution to the current impasse in negotiations and support for freer world trade. “All the WTO members must reach an ambitious and balanced result by the end of the Doha round launched in 2001 with a view to advancing free trade (…). The Doha round is essential for APEC and all WTO members.” APEC leaders declared they have cut customs barriers by two-thirds in the past 15 years, thereby contributing to fast economic growth. Chinese president Hu Jintao took the opportunity to advance a three-part proposal for APEC-member cooperation, calling on the countries to contribute to the steady growth of world and regional economies by using the full force of their influence and implementing political measures.

It is worth noting the impact of these trade negotiations on the cultural sector. Trade agreements have been placing increasing pressure on countries to give up their right to have cultural policies to ensure their citizens have access to their own culture, as well as culture from other countries around the world. This is why the UNESCO Convention is so important, because it recognizes the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services—that they are transmitters of value, identity and meaning that transcend their commercial dimension.

In fact, the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (which represents 31 coalitions for cultural diversity in as many countries), like the European Union, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, and the other linguistic regions (Portuguese, Spanish, and Arab–speaking), has always stressed the need for countries to refrain from making any free trade commitments in culture during the Convention negotiation, adoption, and ratification processes that would limit the scope of the Convention. A number of governments, including Canada and Québec, have decided to refrain from making free trade commitments and to protect their policies whenever issues arise that could potentially affect their ability to adopt cultural support measures, in particular, matters involving goods, services, investment, competition rules, and intellectual property.

Besides Canada, APEC’s current membership includes Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Republic of the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Republic of South Korea, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam. Peru, Russia, and Vietnam were the latest countries to join in November 1998.

 

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