On February 27 Mr. Beat Santchi, vice president of the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity, wrote to the President of the European Commission, Mr. José Manuel Barroso, to express European coalitions' concerns over CETA negotiations.
“We have been informed that the European Commission is challenging the Canadian request for a cultural exception and is trying to integrate cultural and audiovisual services into the agreement with the aim to pursue the liberalization of a few Canadian cultural services.
The European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity would like to express their deep concerns on the European trade negotiators' attitude.
First, it represents a violation of the Council's mandate of April 2009 which expressly excludes the audiovisual and cultural sectors from the scope of the agreement. […]
To include cultural and audiovisual services into the CETA negotiation with Canada would disown the strong commitment of the European Union in favor of cultural diversity. […]
Canada and the European Union are the two main leaders for a better recognition of the importance and benefits of cultural diversity in our societies. Therefore it would be unacceptable for the European Commission to pursue trade liberalization in cultural and audiovisual Canadian services and to challenge a cultural exception in order to obtain Canadian commitments in other sectors.”
On April 26, Ms Inês Servulo Correia responded to the coalitions on President Barroso's behalf. Noting the importance accorded by the Commission to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, she added:
[…] “I am afraid you have been misinformed on this issue. There is no disagreement with Canada on the exclusion of audiovisual services from market access commitments. Both parties agreed that the CETA will not interfere with their right to maintain the possibility to preserve and develop their capacity to define and implement their cultural and audiovisual policies for the purpose of preserving their cultural diversity, whilst promoting cultural and audiovisual exchanges and favoring intercultural dialogue.
There are technical discussions with Canada on the modalities of the agreement. We particularly wish to avoid the risk that European cultural operators who play an active role in Canada could be discriminated against in relation to the protection of their intellectual property rights […]
The implementation of the UNESCO convention, in conjunction with the implementation of the European agenda for culture, has emphasized and underlined the role and specificity of cultural goods and services that the Commission is taking into account when addressing these issues in bilateral or multilateral negotiations.”
The letter from the European coalitions and the response from the Cabinet of the European Commission are both available in their English original version on the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity website.