Expressing major concern over the consequences of the European trade policy on the European cultural and audiovisual sectors, the European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity met on September 20 in Bratislava (Slovakia) and adopted a common position that they presented to the Directorate General of Trade of the European Commission as part of the consultations on a future trade agreement between the Unites States (US) and the European Union (EU).
In their written contribution, the European Coalitions expressed their concern that “the audiovisual or other cultural services could be included in the trade negotiation and be used as a trade bargaining chip.”
Among other things, they recalled that:
“[…] the protection and promotion of the audiovisual sector is in line with the traditional stance of the EU on audiovisual services. Indeed, the EU has hitherto refused any trade commitment in this field since the GATS.”
“[…] by adopting the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the EU recognized the specific and double nature, both economic and cultural, of cultural goods and services as well as the right of States to implement cultural policies. This should not be just a reference quoted in European Commissioners' cultural speeches. It should bring effective consequences in the way the EU acts in trade negotiations.”
Concerning the negotiation of a trade agreement US-EU, the European Coalitions “[invited] the European Commission to express itself in favor of the horizontal exclusion of the audiovisual and cultural services from the trade negotiations with the US.” In the opinion of the European Coalitions, such a position would ensure that the European measures and policies aimed at fostering the diversity of cultural expressions will be maintained.
They also expressed their dissatisfaction with the position of the European Commission on the issue of culture and trade in recent last years, particularly regarding the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada:
“For instance, whereas the Members States’ mandate to the European Commission on the EU-Canada CETA globally excluded the audiovisual and other cultural sectors from the scope of the negotiation, the European Commission did not consider that it automatically triggers the horizontal exclusion of audiovisual and cultural sectors. Moreover, despite its commitment to do so, the European Commission has not published any strategy on the crucial issue of culture and trade.”
Finally, with respect to the position of the Unites States regarding audiovisual services, the European Coalitions indicated the following risks:
“[…] the United States stance in various fora reveals that the opening of trade negotiations on the non-linear audiovisual services is one of their trade priorities.”
“On the one hand, they support the OECD exercise named STRI [Services Trade Restrictiveness Index] in the audiovisual services sector whose objective is to list the trade barriers. The inclusion of the European measures and policies aimed to foster cultural diversity into this list, by considering them only from the trade perspective, inflects a negative judgment on them and could contribute to question their existence.”
“On the other hand, United States suggested the integration of the non-linear services into the category of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). If Video on Demand (VoD) is not considered as an audiovisual service, its trade liberalization will become much easier given that similar barriers do not exist in the ICT sector and that a few European Member States do have trade interests in this field.”
“This US position can be considered as a first step towards a formal demand of liberalization of the non-linear audiovisual services.”
To read the full contribution of the European Coalitions, visit the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity website.