Canada is committed in the FTAA negotiations to maintaining maximum flexibility to pursue cultural policy objectives. As is the case in Canada's existing bilateral trade agreements, Canada will be seeking a cultural exception that achieves this goal.
Canada is using the occasion of the FTAA negotiations to promote recognition of the importance of preserving cultural diversity. In particular, the Government has developed a paper on "Cultural Diversity in the FTAA Negotiations"to foster discussions with our negotiating partners in the Hemisphere.
Canada has, therefore, proposed language for the Preamble to the Agreement that addresses the importance of allowing governments to introduce policies supporting cultural diversity::
"RECOGNIZING that countries must maintain the ability to preserve, develop and implement their cultural policies for the purpose of strengthening cultural diversity, given the essential role that cultural goods and services play in the identity and diversity of society and the lives of individuals;"
The FTAA negotiations also represent an important opportunity to enhance the multilateral dialogue on cultural diversity and to build support for a binding international instrument in this regard. Therefore, in March 2002, prior to the Organization of American States Culture Ministers and Highest Appropriate Authorities Meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, Canada hosted an Experts Seminar on Cultural Diversity in Vancouver under Summit of the Americas auspices. In March 2003 in Halifax, Canada hosted a second Experts Seminar, inviting culture and trade experts from throughout the Americas to foster consistency between the culture policies and the trade policies pursued by our hemispheric partners.
The preservation and promotion of cultural identity is a core objective for Canada in all international trade negotiations. Historically, this has been achieved in some cases through cultural exceptions, as in the case of Canada's bilateral free trade agreements with Chile, Israel and Costa Rica. In the case of the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), there was no consensus on a cultural exemption at the conclusion of the Uruguay Round. Instead, the structure of the GATS allows countries to make national treatment and market access commitments only in the service sectors of their choice. Canada, like many other countries, did not schedule any commitments in cultural-related sectors.
Following a request from the Minister for International Trade, the Cultural Industries Sectoral Advisory Group on International Trade (SAGIT) publicly released a report in February 1999, which recommended that Canada should pursue a new international instrument on cultural diversity. The recommendation was based in part on an assessment that a set of clear rules on measures that could and could not be used to promote cultural diversity was preferable to a policy of exempting culture from trade rules, because technological change and the "convergence" of industries in the cultural sector were creating uncertainty.
Domestically, the Government held country-wide consultations with stakeholders and interested Canadians on the recommendation, which received the support of the Standing Committees of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Canadian Heritage. Since announcing support for the development of such an instrument in October 1999, the Government has been pursuing a multifaceted approach to build an international consensus on the principles of cultural diversity in both its bilateral and multilateral trading relationships and in such fora as the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), La Francophonie, the G-8, the Summit of the Americas, and the Organization of American States (OAS). These efforts were rewarded in October 2003, when the members of UNESCO decided by consensus to develop a convention on cultural diversity that would cover diverse cultural content and artistic expressions.
Pending developments with respect to the negotiation of an instrument, Canada will continue to seek the maximum flexibility in international agreements, such as the FTAA, to pursue its cultural policy objectives.