Centre études internationales et mondialisation / Institut d’études internationales de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, le 18 juin 2004 - 2004/06/18
In this report to the International Agency of the Francophonie (AIF), Gilbert Gagné, professor at the Political Studies Department at Bishop’s University and Director of Groupe de recherche en intégration continentale (GRIC), René Côté, professor at the Legal Sciences Department and vice dean of the Faculty of Political Science and Law at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), and Christian Deblock, professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Moncton and director of Centre Études internationales et Mondialisation at UQAM, assess how recent free trade agreements (FTAs) signed by the United States with Singapore, Chile, Australia, Central America, and Morocco affect the signatory countries’ ability to implement cultural policy. But the main goal of the report is to determine the extent to which these agreements could short-circuit efforts by the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) to foster cultural diversity, and especially UNESCO-sponsored negotiations to develop an international convention on cultural contents and artistic expressions.
The authors’ main conclusions regarding the impact of the five new FTAs on the ability of signatory states—and by extension the international community—to foster cultural diversity are based on an analysis of the agreements’ main provisions on investments, intellectual property, e-commerce, and services. The authors paid especially close attention to provisions likely to interfere with state cultural policy initiatives. According to them, the study clearly shows that “the very notion of cultural exception is under attack.” They point out that “although financial measures to support cultural policy have been exempted from the agreements, so have subsidy programs in general. As for regulatory action, the possibilities have been severely limited. Yet international efforts to protect and foster cultural diversity seek to ensure that states have access to a wide range of instruments—both financial and regulatory—to face the challenges posed by globalization to national cultures.”
In their conclusion, the authors stress that the main consequence of the recent FTAs signed by the U.S. is to severely restrict the array of measures that states have at their disposal to protect their national cultures. “For the countries in question—and by extension the international community—it comes down to being forced to pay to protect cultural diversity. But most of the world’s nations have limited financial resources for promoting and defending their cultures in the face of globalization. Our conclusions bode ill for ongoing efforts to develop an international convention on cultural diversity. It therefore appears crucial that OIF, in its efforts to promote cultural diversity, put even more emphasis on the importance of maintaining, and even strengthening, national regulatory measures on behalf of culture.” (Available in French)