Vol. 6, no 35, Monday, October 16, 2006
Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: Mobilization efforts for ratification by Member States gain momentum!
|13. Republic of Moldova |
|5. Monaco |
IN THIS ISSUE :
The Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions will enter into force three months after the date of deposit of the thirtieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, but only with respect to those States or regional economic integration organizations that have deposited their respective instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession on or before that date.
To this day, Madagascar is the 11th country that has ratified and officially deposited last September 11 its instruments of ratification with the Director General of UNESCO, after Croatia (August 31), Togo (September 5) and Belarus (September 6). Thus, these countries join Canada, Mauritius, Mexico, Romania, Monaco, Bolivia and Djibouti, which are already Parties to the Convention (Source: UNESCO ).
Based on available information, seven (7) other States have already concluded their internal ratification processes and are expected to file their instruments with UNESCO in short order: Peru, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, France, Finland and Austria.
In addition, several other countries have their ratification processes well underway such as Belgium, Moldavia, the Popular Republic of Congo, Norway, Spain, Brazil, Chile, among other (source: Coalition Currents)
As we mentioned it in the last edition of our Bulletin, the distinction between ratification of the Convention and deposition of the relevant instruments with UNESCO is crucial: a member state is only deemed to be a State Party to the Convention when it has ratified and filed its documentation with UNESCO’s Paris headquarters. Moreover, there is a clear incentive for the UNESCO Member State to ratify early: those that do will be among the participants at the first Conference of Parties, which will elect the initial 18-member Intergovernmental Committee that will be charged with developing the operational mechanisms of the Convention. The Intergovernmental Committee members therefore stand to have a major role in setting the direction of the new Convention.
This is the reason why we must continue with the mobilization campaign, in order to promote the ratification of the Convention with the UNESCO Member States to reach the target of the 30-ratification threshold by the end of next June. If we reach this goal, the Convention
will enter into force through its first Conference of Parties at the time of the 34th UNESCO General Conference in October 2007.
In its analysis of bilateral free trade agreements (FTA), Université de Montréal's newsletter " Centre Études internationales et Mondialisation" (October 2, issue no. 9) points out that with the Doha multilateral trade agreement on ice, diplomatic negotiations are in full swing between countries of influence in order to sustain the momentum toward liberalization of world trade. A double strategy seems to be taking shape on both the multilateral and bilateral levels. For example, on the bilateral level, all countries-with the U.S. far in the lead-appear to have thrown themselves headlong into bilateral free trade negotiations. The speed with which the U.S. is closing the many deals it has in negotiation-before the fast track procedure expires-has created a snowball effect that few countries can resist. The advantage of the multilateral approach was that it concentrated negotiations in one place, the WTO, making it easier to analyze the contents of agreements.
We are currently witnessing an increased number of bargaining tables combined with a growing asymmetry between contracting parties, which makes it easier to undermine cultural policies. According to the same newsletter (No 8, September 4), this new aspect of the process of liberalizing world trade makes it even more crucial to monitor the consequences to cultural diversity since these bilateral trade agreements can include clauses that could have an impact on implementation of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions currently being ratified by signatory countries. The newsletter concludes that vigilance is required now more than ever to ensure that cultural diversity is not sacrificed to the pressures of trade agreements.
Countries are therefore reminded to refrain from making any free trade commitments involving culture that would limit the scope of the Convention during its negotiation, adoption, and ratification processes.
"The WTO is at an impasse and the IMF is lagging behind. The weakening of globalization's two guardian angels could finally help to put the phenomenon a little bit on the backburner," says Le Devoir . Elsewhere, Le Figaro writes that with the failure of the WTO's Doha Development round of trade talks last July 24 in Geneva , its director-general Pascal Lamy revived protectionist tendencies in certain countries, and its corollary, an increase in bilateral negotiations. "States are tired of getting bogged down in multilateralism and are simply trying to maintain trade while gaining access to markets through mutual agreement. For some, it was the excuse they needed. At the WTO, you have to make concessions. With bilateral agreements, the most powerful voice wins," explained Mr. Lamy.
According to Mr. Lamy, that logic is particularly appealing to the U.S. After suspending negotiations, Washington expressed a desire to " find an issue that would advance international negotiations." In response to the IMF and its warnings about "protectionist tendencies," U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stated clearly that the U.S. would " continue to push for globalization through major regional and bilateral negotiations." The newspaper notes that the U.S. has recently "concluded agreements left, right, and center, including with Oman , Peru , and Colombia , who join a stream of other countries like Morocco and Jordan . Other negotiations are currently underway with South Korea , Malaysia , Panama , Thailand , the United Arab Emirates , and others. (.) In each case, the U.S. manages to swing things to its favor, as was the case with Chile and Singapore ." Washington wants to wrap up as many bilateral agreements as possible before the expiry in mid-2007 of its Trade Promotion Authority , which gives the President the power to negotiate trade agreements and submit them to Congress without the latter being able to amend them.
On March 8, 2006, Malaysia and the U.S. announced their intention to quickly wrap up a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) before the end of the year. However, the plan is far from enjoying unanimous support among the Malaysian population, which has denounced its undemocratic character and the lack of transparency surrounding the agreement's actual negotiation process. Not only have parliamentarians been kept out of these dealings-which are geared towards accommodating American interests in the region-there is also no means for the public to participate or even be kept informed. This lack of transparency has become even more worrying with the recent appearance of a document revealing that the issue of access to Malaysia 's film and radio markets is of the utmost interest to American business. The document also directly mentions three aspects with an impact on Malaysian cultural policy: radio broadcast quotas, restrictions on investments in land-based broadcasting and in cable and satellite networks, and the planned taxes on all foreign films shown in Malaysia . There are worries that the free trade agreement between Malaysia and the U.S. will mean yet another tragic, blatant assault on cultural diversity, as was the case with the issue of screen quotas in South Korea . (Sources: www.ftamalaysia.org and www.bilaterals.org )
The U.S. and Mauritius signed an agreement on September 18 that promotes trade and investment between these two countries as they work towards rekindling multilateral negotiations within the framework of the WTO. To date, the U.S. has signed tentative agreements in sub-Saharan Africa on trade and investment in Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and the countries of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, as well as the countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Source: Gary G. Yerkey, International Trade Reporter , September 21, 2006)
In a report released last August, the United States International Trade Commission examined a number of bilateral FTAs signed by the U.S. (pp. 81-84). Whether it was with Oman (signed January 19, 2006), Peru (April 12, 2006), or Columbia (February 27, 2006), these agreements included the privatization of service sectors, including audiovisual, telecommunications, digital products like software, music, content, and videos, and increased protection of intellectual property rights. (Source: The Year in Trade 2005)
Euro News reports that, faced with a stalemate in negotiations at the WTO, Europeans are turning to bilateral FTAs. The EU, which is usually very "legitimist" in defending multilateralism, is quietly changing its stance. Given that others are " putting plan B into effect by negotiating these types of agreements, the European Union mustn't fall behind" suggested Ms. Christine Lagarde, the French minister for foreign trade.
According to L'Humanité , that explains why the European Commission (EC) and the Finnish presidency drew up a draft FTA with South Korea and ASEAN on the eve of the sixth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)-which opened September 10 in Helsinki with 25 EU countries and the 13 ASEAN and northeast Asian countries in attendance-in spite of European Commission President José Barroso's admission that the EU hadn't yet decided on "a specific negotiations mandate" for the signing of bilateral agreements. This formed the backdrop for the announcement in Helsinki by the EU and China that they would start discussions towards a new framework agreement.
Asian countries are set to sign nearly 300 agreements of varying significance this year. Japan , which had never signed a bilateral agreement before 2002, has stepped up its negotiations with China , India , and even Australia . In Helsinki , it signed an FTA with the Philippines . In Tokyo , on September 21, Japan and the 6 nations forming the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began negotiations for a future FTA that they would like to conclude by 2008. The Japanese also signed an FTA with Chile on September 22, which will come into effect at the start of 2007.
For its part, China would like to see the Doha negotiations get back on track within the framework of the WTO, but it has not ruled out signing regional and bilateral FTAs, according to an announcement by the Chinese trade spokesperson, Mr. Chong Quan. Stating that bilateral FTAs are an important supplement to the WTO, Mr. Chong indicated that these two mechanisms should be integrated. He pointed out that to date, China has signed FTAs with ASEAN, Chile, and Pakistan and that it also wishes to undertake negotiations with the GCC, the Southern Africa Customs Union, New Zealand, and Australia as well as create a Chinese-Icelandic free trade zone.
The phenomenon has a particular impact on African countries, which will be in a worse position for negotiating one-on-one with great powers like the U.S. without the "protection" provided by the WTO. The proliferation of bilateral FTAs, aside from posing a threat to multilateralism, risks opening the way to a veritable "law of the jungle" attitude, according to Le Figaro . That why Brazil, India, and South Africa-which held their first-ever joint summit in Brasilia on September 13-strengthened their alliance and asserted their role as the political voice of developing countries, according to Le Monde . These three countries foresee negotiation of an FTA between India , Mercosur ( Argentina , Brazil , Paraguay , Uruguay , and Venezuela ), and the Southern Africa Customs Union ( Botswana , Lesotho, Namibia , South Africa , and Swaziland ).
UNESCO recently conducted a survey (October 2005 to June 2006) and prepared for UNESCO Bangkok (Communication and Information) and Japanese Funds in Trust (JFIT) to assess the e-readiness of 16 Asia-Pacific counties, entitled E-Readiness in the Asia-Pacific Region. Results of a survey to assess the need for ICT training for information professionals in the region. The purpose of the survey was to gather data that would enable preliminary assessment of the need for ICT training for information professionals in the region. Representatives in Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia , China , India , Indonesia , Lao People's Democratic Republic ( Laos ), Malaysia , Mongolia , Myanmar , New Zealand , Pakistan , Sri Lanka , South Korea , Thailand , and Vietnam completed the survey. The survey solicited responses related to telecommunication infrastructure, access to computers and the Internet, the availability of training in ICT skills and technology training, and the organization and level of electronic resources available in libraries.
The findings of this survey provide evidence of the imbalance of connectivity, infrastructure, and skills between the cities and the rural areas in the countries surveyed. They enable country-by-country comparisons within the region of development levels and issues related to telecommunication infrastructure, access to computers and the Internet, the availability of training in ICT skills and technology training, and the organization and level of electronic resources available in libraries.
One of the recommendations included in a UNESCO survey is to develop comprehensive ICT training packages for information professionals that build on existing ICT skills. To establish the necessary connectivity, infrastructure, and skills, the survey suggests that it is crucial to invest in education and in creating strong industry leadership. Providing ICT education to those who do not have access to the necessary technology or who lack connectivity is difficult if not impossible. It is necessary, however, if the information professional is to have transferable skills from rural to urban areas and from country to country.