In our November 7, 2011 edition, we detailed the concerns expressed by the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity regarding the list of trade barriers drawn up under the STRI (Services Trade Restrictiveness Index) initiative in the audiovisual sector by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). We reported on letters sent by the French Coalition in September 2011 to the ministers of France’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Communications, and Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Industry to alert them to the dangers of this practice.
On March 15, 2012, the French Coalition, still concerned about the risks to the audiovisual sector posed by the STRI effort, sent a letter to the secretary-general of OECD, Mr. Angel Gurria.
In its letter, the Coalition restated the risks of the STRI venture vis-à-vis the diversity of cultural expressions:
“[…] Despite your assurances that the diversity of cultural expressions would qualify as an objective under the initiative, the French Coalition nonetheless fears the project is by its very nature biased, and poses a risk to any public policy that does not directly envision the liberalization of trade.
“What this means is […] OECD country policies will be measured only against their commercial aims, without balancing the Services Trade Restrictiveness Index against how useful these measures are for developing and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions .
“As a result, the Services Trade Restrictiveness Index will negatively quantify the impact of measures in favor of a public objective considered essential by the 29 OECD countries that signed and ratified the UNESCO Convention UNESCO on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.”
In his reply dated April 10, 2012, Mr. Ken Ash, OECD director of trade and agriculture, sought to allay the French Coalition’s concerns as to the nature of the STRI initiative in the audiovisual sector. He noted the following points among others in his reply to the Coalition:
“[…] This instrument is in no way intended to pass judgment on measures implemented by States to promote cultural diversity. The STRI is not designed to evaluate policies or recommend a particular model for regulating audiovisual services.”
“[…] Our concern as OECD Secretariat is for the index to be neutral vis-à-vis policy objectives. I share your belief that the index should not favor any one country or call into question the policies of a country.”
“ […] I would further point out that the list of measures for the audiovisual sector is not yet carved in stone and is currently under discussion by the Trade Committee. We appreciate your input. Rest assured that the STRI will reflect a consensus of OECD Member State delegates on the measures to include.”