Vol. 5, no 16, Monday, May 30, 2005
Draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions : The process of elaboration continues!
IN THIS ISSUE :
Koïchiro Matsuura, Directeur général de l'UNESCO, Paris, le 25 mai 2005 – 2005/05/25
The Director-General, Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, proceeded, May 25, 2005, to the opening of the third session of the Intergovernmental Meeting of Experts on the preliminary draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions . During ten days - from May 25 to June 4 - this session will join together nearly 500 experts come from 130 countries, 2 observers, 6 representatives of intergovernmental organizations and 19 of nongovernmental organizations.
After saluting the remarkable efforts and tremendous work accomplished since the first session, Mr. Matsuura noted in his opening speech “the unique, special, and decisive nature of this third session” and the key challenges of this debate: « Over the next two weeks the Draft Convention should be finalized. It carries not only its own purpose, but an even greater responsibility—to put the finishing touches on a much broader mechanism that involves cultural diversity as a whole (…) It is clear that the challenge of this meeting will be to reach compromises between the still divergent positions of certain countries. » Before yielding the floor to the chairman of the intergovernmental meeting, Mr. Kader Asmal, to whom he paid tribute for his tremendous efforts in presenting a new working base, Mr. Matsuura declared, « I am confident in his wisdom and experience. I have no doubt he can help you find the road to consensus. »
Reporting on the last meeting and presenting the working documents, particularly the “composite” text and the “consolidated” text of the Draft Convention, Mr. Matsuura noted that UNESCO—the only UN organization with a cultural mandate—must « obviously address an issue that was not yet covered by existing instruments but is nonetheless crucial to cultural diversity: cultural contents and artistic expressions,» in order to complement and round out its « wide range of normative instruments that help protect cultural diversity, each according to a specific approach,» and face the challenges posed by the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. He ended by expressing the hope « that this meeting reflects the involvement of governments—an open, generous involvement and awareness of the challenges facing cultural diversity.» [05-16]
UNESCO, St Petersburg, Russian Federation, 17-19 May 2005 – 2005/05/17-19
UNESCO organized, from 17 to 19 May 2005, in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, a three-day expert meeting on Cultural Diversity in Knowledge Societies. The event took place in the framework of the conference UNESCO between the two phases of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) organized by the Russian authorities. This expert meeting is one of UNESCO’s thematic meetings in preparation for the second meeting of the WSIS (Tunis, Tunisia, 16-18 November 2005).
The purpose of this meeting is to measure sustainability of Cultural diversity through the opportunities offered by the new information and communication technologies (ICT) for future knowledge societies through the following themes: New intercultural connections and networking; New opportunities to make old and new knowledge available; New opportunities to creativity; New access to cultural contents and services produced worldwide. The meeting also highlighted the challenges generated by ICTs, i.e., Digital divide; Development issues; Cultural and linguistic diversity; Obstacles to access to ICTs; Difficulties to produce local content. The results of the Meeting will be made available to the participants of the second meeting of WSIS in Tunis through a Report including recommendations. [05-16]
Ministère de la Culture et de la Francophonie de Côte d'Ivoire, le 30 avril 2005 – 2005/04/30
The first International Fair for Cultural Industries (SICA) was held April 26 to 30, 2005, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The fair, initiated by the Ivory Coast Ministry of Culture and the Francophonie, was organized in partnership with Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie (AIF) and placed under the aegis of the UN Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity. It also enjoyed institutional support from the African Union and the cooperation of Ivory Coast ministries affected by the production, marketing, and distribution of cultural goods and services.
With the objective of promoting cultural diversity, cultural dialog, and African integration, SICA also sought to promote economic actors from the various African cultural industry sectors and position the West African cultural market internationally. SICA activities centered on an international workshop on the situation and development prospects of cultural industries in southern hemisphere countries and a training seminar on culture, trade, and globalization led by experts from AIF, UNESCO, and Ivory Coast, Senegalese and Central African organizations. SICA recommendations included strengthening partnerships, exploring bilateral and multilateral operating agreements with institutions, creating a cultural industry development plan, and establishing a national fund to support cultural industry operators. [05-16]
The Office of the United States Trade Representative, Washington, May 9, 2005 – 2005/05/09
On its 2005 annual review of foreign compliance with telecommunications trade agreements, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) both identifies barriers facing U.S. telecommunications services and equipment providers, and lays out the specific telecommunications-related issues on which the office of the USTR will focus its efforts this year in order to open markets and expand trade opportunities and ensure the benefits of competitive telecommunications markets for all U.S. businesses.
In this regard, The 1377 Review identifies practices that interfere with these goals, and that have the potential to damage American companies, workers and consumers—practices which the USTR will work vigorously over the coming year to modify or eliminate. The 2005 annual review points argues that: « We are deeply concerned by the tepid commitment some of our trade partners have shown to competition in the telecommunications sector. This is especially true in countries such as China, India and Japan where national operators are already competing on a global level, but remain protected at home by relatively closed markets. For this purpose, « The United States will work vigorously to strengthen and enforce our trade rights in these countries and elsewhere ». The Review also identifies another issue that is particularly troubling to the United States: excessive interconnection rates for mobile networks in Germany, Japan, Mexico, Peru and Switzerland; restrictions on access to and use of leased lines in Germany and submarine cable capacity in India; excessive regulatory requirements in China, Colombia and India; burdensome testing and certification requirements in Mexico and Korea; and, limitations on suppliers’ choice of technology in China and Korea.
The USTR will continue its efforts to open markets and expand trade opportunities in telecommunications through a range of activities including: bilateral and multilateral engagement with trade partners to hold them accountable to fully implementing their existing commitments; negotiating and adopting strong disciplines to eliminate or prevent the emergence of trade distorting barriers; and where warranted, initiating dispute settlement action. Then, the USTR wants to make profitable WTO rules which provide pro-competitive guidelines for regulators to follow in ensuring reasonable access to networks and impartiality of regulatory processes. [05-16]
U.S. Department of State, Washington, May 18, 2005 – 2005/05/18
At the May 17 swearing-in ceremony of new U.S. trade representative Robert Portman (who replaces Mr. Robert Zoellick, currently deputy secretary of state to the White House), President Bush announced the top priorities on the U.S. trade agenda for the coming months, including passing the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), completing Doha negotiations currently underway at WTO to reduce or eliminate tariffs in key industry sectors and open the global market in services, and fighting piracy of U.S. intellectual policy and barriers to exporting U.S. goods and services to China. In this regard, the U.S. president declared that China must meet its obligations as a member of WTO. He urged U.S. Congress to pass CAFTA, which he said would make the western hemisphere more competitive with Asia and strengthen democracy. This agreement would also open new markets and lower trade barriers in key sectors for U.S. businesses.
Mr. Portman maintained that his priorities were to expand export opportunities by opening markets around the world, spread economic and political freedom, be sure that U.S. trade agreements and trade laws are being enforced, and ensure that those who sign trade agreements live up to their terms. To this end, he stated, « I will use all the tools available to us. This includes consultations and negotiation, but, when appropriate, it also means taking legal action to enforce our rights and defend American interests. […] I believe the right way forward is smart economic engagement, opening markets, tough enforcement, and using trade as a powerful weapon to spread freedom.» [05-16]
Swissinfo, Radio Suisse Internationale, édition du 17 mai 2005 – 2005/05/17
In this edition, journalist Armando Mombelli reports that the Swiss government, at the urging of economic stakeholders, wants to “step up” economic relations with the U.S. by proposing that the U.S. administration open bilateral negotiations to quickly lead to a free trade agreement. Mombelli points out that a free trade agreement would give Switzerland the same benefits Washington has already granted to Israel, Australia, Chile, Singapore, and soon Egypt—countries with which the U.S. has pursued bilateral free trade agreements in recent years. Currently, the U.S. imposes higher import duties than Switzerland. Thus, “eliminating these duties would be good for Swiss exports and would help cut red tape.”
The benefit for Switzerland in a bilateral trade agreement also lies in the fact that “negotiations underway at WTO will lead, at best, only to a partial reduction of customs barriers.” Switzerland wants to speed up the process because “the current U.S. administration cannot sign trade agreements until late June 2007. After that date, negotiations will have to be relaunched with the new U.S. government, which will require many more years.” Currently, Mombelli notes, “Switzerland still has a good deal of leeway for negotiating with the U.S.government. But it must do so before negotiations are opened between the U.S. and members of the European Union who also wish to sign a free trade agreement. After that point, Switzerland will have no choice but to wait and adjust to the results of negotiations between Brussels and Washington.” [05-16]
Menara Communication , édition du 17 mai 2005 – 2005/05/17
This edition reports that the Bush administration wishes to establish a free trade area with the Arab world by 2013 to develop trade and improve the lives of the region’s people. In a May 2003 address, the U.S. president stated that “the Arab world has a great cultural tradition but is largely missing out on the economic progress of our time.” He proposed “the establishment of a U.S.–Middle East free trade area within a decade, to bring the Middle East into an expanding circle of opportunity, to provide hope for the people who live in that region.” To establish this U.S.–Middle East free trade area, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has opened negotiations with a certain number of Arab countries with a view to signing bilateral trade agreements that should make way for a Middle East free trade zone in 2013: the free trade agreement with Jordan is already in effect, while one with Morocco will become effective on July 1, 2005; the agreement signed with Bahrain is pending passage by Congress, and negotiations on agreements with Oman and the United Arab Emirates are under way.
According to Catherine Novelli, a senior USTR trade official who indicated that the free trade agreements « cover all products. Everything goes to zero. We get rid of all non-tariff barriers,» the first step is to help interested countries join WTO, since « our free trade agreements use the WTO obligations as a basis, and then they go beyond the WTO.» Second, the U.S. provides incentives for trade liberalization to low- and middle-income countries through the Generalized System of Preferences. This program allows duty-free access to the U.S. market for more than 4,650 products. The U.S. also negotiates bilateral investment treaties to ensure equal treatment of foreign and domestic investors and compliance with international laws and standards on investment. It also offers trade and investment framework agreements that provide a basis for most bilateral trade negotiations. Those agreements, according to Ms. Novelli, « allow us to have very intense dialogs about trade and investment policy; about the goals […] the individual governments might have for making further progress; [about] technical assistance, [if desired], to help countries get where they want to go; and […] how we can move from bilateral dialog [to the signing] of a bilateral free trade agreement.» She notes that U.S. Congress has been receptive to free trade agreements between the U.S. and Middle Eastern and North African countries. [05-16]
For the Cannes Film Festival, this article from LeMonde turns the spotlight on U.S. actor Danny Glover, one of the first “volunteer” ambassadors recruited in Hollywood by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to promote UN values. Glover currently “fights passionately against the U.S. globalization of culture as a staunch advocate of cultural diversity.” After informal meetings with African filmmakers organized by the National Center for Cinematography (CNC), Glover told LeMonde that “cultural globalization is dramatic, because it is subject to the growing tyranny of the market and is based exclusively on the desire to maximize profits. Even in a place like Cannes, a behind-the-scenes battle is occurring. We need to think about the cinematographic models being broadcast worldwide, because the values they convey will be adopted without discernment. In the end, this leads to glorification of the dominant culture, to the detriment of all local cultures. We’re seeing a societal phenomenon like none other in history.”
He is very shocked that « a nation of over 300 million inhabitants, the United States of America, is driving this machine we call globalization. No other country in the world benefits from boosting the profits of U.S. groups because this requires all marginal cultures to go extinct. Extinction seems pretty far off today. We think the danger is outside. No, it’s already at your next door neighbor’s, and it’ll soon be knocking at your door. » However, he asserts, « Art does more than let people look at things; it makes people see things. It’s more than mere observation—it touches the human soul. » As for African cinema, Danny Glover is aware of its difficulties with distribution and equipment but says that « African directors must first film their own stories in order to have access to their markets. » [05-16]