This note draws attention to multilateral efforts, in the Americas and in international fora such as UNESCO, to promote the importance of preserving cultural diversity and to develop a binding international instrument in this regard. Canada encourages FTAA countries to ensure that the undertakings and outcomes of the FTAA negotiations are fully consistent with such objectives.
Canada's July 2001 proposal for the FTAA preamble included the following paragraph on 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." (FTAA.tci/w/04)]
This approach to cultural diversity in the FTAA negotiations is supported by the formal position adopted by countries of the hemisphere on previous occasions:
In the 2001 Québec City Summit of the Americas Plan of Action, Leaders considered that:
"the cultural diversity that characterizes the region of the Americas is a source of great richness for our societies. Respect for and value of our diversity must be a cohesive factor that strengthens the social fabric and the development of our nations."
In July 2002, member states of the Organization of American States addressed the importance of cultural diversity at the First Inter-American Meeting of Ministers of Culture and Highest Appropriate Authorities, held in Colombia. The Cartagena de Indias Ministerial Declaration and Plan of Action recognized:
"... the need for greater Inter-American cooperation to maximize the benefits of globalization and mitigate its negative effects on the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity in the Americas."
Furthermore, the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, adopted by UNESCO members in November 2001, formally acknowledges important principles of relevance to countries of the Americas: In particular:
"Article 8 – Cultural goods and services: commodities of a unique kind
In the face of present-day economic and technological change, opening up vast prospects for creation and innovation, particular attention must be paid to the diversity of the supply of creative work, to due recognition of the rights of authors and artists and to the specificity of cultural goods and services which, as vectors of identity, values and meaning, must not be treated as mere commodities or consumer goods."
Currently, there is a multilateral effort to develop in UNESCO a binding instrument that would establish clear rules to enable countries to maintain policies that promote cultural diversity and accommodate the particular characteristics and social importance of cultural content, while respecting the rules governing the international trading system. Canada invites all FTAA countries to actively involve themselves in that process.
In this context, Canada encourages all FTAA countries to ensure that their formally acknowledged interest in the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity is reflected in the undertakings and outcomes of FTAA negotiations. Pending the development of a new binding instrument on cultural diversity, and the determination of its linkages with the disciplines of trade agreements, Canada believes the most effective way to reflect those concerns is through a cultural exemption for the FTAA.
Culture and Trade in the FTAA
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Updated November 1st, 2002