Cultural diversity

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European Union–United States free trade agreement: High risk negotiations for cultural diversity

In a February 18, 2013 press release, the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity expresses its concern following the announcement by the European Council and US president Barack Obama that negotiations have begun with a view to setting up a free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.

According to the French Coalition, "opening these trade negotiations risks challenging the right of states and groups of states to freely pursue cultural creation policies." The French Coalition counts the following among the risks to cultural diversity:

"At this stage, negotiations could include the audiovisual and cultural sector with a view to lifting restrictions and rendering null and void policies put in place in favor of cultural diversity, particularly quota and financial support measures."

"The negotiation method that may be chosen, the so-called negative list approach, is particularly dangerous: Anything not expressly excluded from the negotiations is automatically included."

The French Coalition also fears that the United States will use these new negotiations to again try to weaken existing measures that protect cultural diversity, notably in the audiovisual sector.

With respect to the United States’ desire to lift restrictions on the audiovisual sector, the Coalition notes that:

"This desire [...] is naturally a product of the size of the American audiovisual industry, both economically and in terms of diplomatic, political, and cultural strategies for the United States."

"[The United States has shown a desire] in recent years to link part of audiovisual services to the new technologies sector to better exclude the application of cultural diversity rules. The United States is arguing for VOD [(video on demand)], catchup TV, etc. to be separate from the traditional audiovisual sector. By subtly tinkering with definitions, "new audiovisual services" could in this way have restrictions removed [and] the cultural exception [...] [would apply only to] distribution via traditional media [and] would no longer apply to Internet broadcasts, which are very much the future for these services."

"Lifting these restrictions would also make difficult any attempts to modernize the financing of content creation by protecting America’s biggest Internet stakeholders (Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc.) from a cultural exception 2.0."

In the face of these potential risks and threats to cultural policies, the French Coalition "calls for a firm commitment by European states to preserve the EU acquis [...since] the European Union has undertaken to promote cultural diversity by signing and ratifying the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions alongside Member States.

Therefore the French Coalition deems it "essential that the European Commission set out a binding mandate for negotiation that is extremely clear and free of ambiguity, and expressly excludes the negotiation of cultural and audiovisual goods and services, no matter how they may be broadcast."

To read the press release, please consult the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity website.

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