Cablegate: Halifax Cultural Diversity Seminar

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. The Department of Canadian Heritage hosted a seminar on a
proposed International Instrument on Cultural Diversity (IICD)
in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 27-28, 2003. Most of the
discussion focused on audiovisual trade issues. Culture
ministry officials and NGO representatives argued that a new
instrument was necessary to promote and preserve their
countries' cultural diversity and counteract "the corrosive
effects of globalization." The U.S. delegation and trade
ministry officials in other delegations noted
that WTO disciplines have proved sufficiently flexible to
address legitimate cultural concerns in the audiovisual sector.
(This cable was prepared by Dan Clune and Eliza Koch of
EB/EPPD/PA, who participated in the Halifax seminar.) End

A Focus On Audiovisual
2. Representatives from 20 countries (vast majority from the
Western Hemisphere), 8 multilateral organizations, and 17 civil
society organizations participated in the Experts Seminar on
cultural diversity. USG attendees included Daniel Clune and
Eliza Koch of the State Department's Economic Bureau and David
Taylor of the Library of Congress. The seminar was designed to
"further informal discussions and facilitate an exchange of
views" on cultural diversity, particularly among trade and
cultural officials. Many foreign government representatives who
were present at the Experts Seminar are also members of the
informal group of culture ministers called the International
Network on Cultural Policy (INCP). In February 2003, the group
met with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) Director General Matsuura and asked UNESCO
to assume responsibility for a cultural diversity instrument the
INCP had drafted. Many representatives of the non-governmental
arm of INCP, called the International Network for Cultural
Diversity (INCD) also participated in the seminar.

3. Although the term "cultural diversity" embraces concerns
ranging from the right to express one's culture to preservation
of languages and indigenous artifacts, the discussion was
focused almost entirely on the rules governing trade in
audiovisual goods and services. James Early of the Smithsonian
Institution, who attended the meeting as an NGO representative,
told participants they needed to broaden the discussion to
matters such as cultural diversity within nations and across
national borders and to the representation of indigenous people
in cultural institutions and at the seminar itself.

4. David Taylor of the Library of Congress gave a presentation
on several U.S. institutions, which are responsible for the
collection, documentation, preservation, celebration, and
display of the multi-cultural expressive traditions of the
United States. Taylor highlighted the programs of the National
Endowment for the Arts, Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian
Institution. He also explained that state and local
involvement, as well as NGO participation, play an important
role in preserving and promoting the cultural diversity of the
United States. The USG delegation provided a fact sheet at the
seminar which previewed the work of the three federal
institutions mentioned above as well as that of the National
Endowment for the Humanities, and the State Department's
Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation.

The Case For an Instrument
5. Culture ministry officials and NGO representatives at the
meeting agreed on the need for a Cultural Diversity Convention.
Jean-Pierre Blais, the Assistant Deputy Minister at the
Department of Canadian Heritage, opened the meeting by noting
that, "Existing global trade rules are based solely on economic
principles." Gary Neil of the Canadian Conference of the Arts
said a new agreement was necessary to counteract the "corrosive
effect of globalization on culture." David Diaz of UNCTAD
claimed that "there was a consensus that the WTO was not the
appropriate forum for dealing with these issues," noting that
"there was one dominant player in the world economy which
controls the distribution of audiovisual goods and services" and
that a new instrument would "protect culture form the
undesirable effects of trade." Phil Stone from the Department
of Canadian Heritage cautioned countries against making new
trade commitments while an instrument was being negotiated.

A Different Perspective from Trade Ministries
6. The Canadian government made a conscious effort to include
officials from trade ministries in the seminar, and those
officials brought a different perspective to the discussion.
Michael Brock from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs
and International Trade noted the need to reconcile domestic
cultural polices and international trade rules and said that the
objective could only be met by engaging both culture and trade
ministries. State Department official Daniel Clune highlighted,
in his presentation to the group, the different strategies
appropriate for addressing different cultural diversity
concerns. He suggested that WTO disciplines have proved
sufficiently flexible to address legitimate cultural concerns,
and that the WTO is the best forum for addressing the cultural
concerns surrounding trade in audiovisual goods and services.
Guillermo Malpica Soto from the Mexican Secretariat of the
Economy agreed on the flexibility provided by the GATS and urged
participants to look for complimentarity between trade and
cultural agreements.

7. Alberto Luiz Pinto Choelho from the WTO office in the
Brazilian Ministry of International Relations noted that the
INCP draft instrument, which would require signatories to
consult "when they are called upon to make commitments that
could put at risk the preservation of cultural diversity," could
subject countries to dispute settlement proceedings in two
different international organizations. He emphasized the need
for any agreement on cultural diversity to have "complimentarity
with the GATS" and suggested that it be negotiated within the
WTO as a GATS reference paper. Kimmo Aulake, a Special Advisor
to the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and one of the
drafters of the INCP instrument, responded that the group
intended to add an article that would state that, "Nothing in
this instrument shall affect the rights and obligations of a
country under other international agreements." However, Philip
Stone from the Department of Canadian Heritage said that
consideration of the issue of coherence among international
agreements must be postponed.

8. Frederic Vacheron from UNESCO's Division of Cultural
Policies noted that UNESCO's Executive Board would meet in April
2003 to discuss the proposed international instrument on
cultural diversity, among other issues.

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