The Emergence of a Cultural Diversity Norm in the World Trade Organisation.
Within the WTO there is a history of the protection of cultural diversity from the very beginning. At the completion of the Uruguay round agreements, cultural industries such as motion pictures and audiovisual services were excluded from being bound to the agreement on TRIPs, the GATT and the GATS. The debate over protecting cultural diversity has been simplified by many to be a battle between the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), or more simply France. During the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations in 1993 the result of discussions on cultural industries was that there was no result, with the US and EU agreeing to continue bilateral negotiations within the WTO system following the Uruguay Round. The issues were not limited to only technical questions of trade in cultural industries but also to issues of "cultural identity, style, and taste in relation to national geographic territories." (van Elteren: 1996) Arguments against the liberalisation of cultural industries became synonymous with questions of "cultural identity and sovereignty, and more generally a problematic dichotomy between European and American culture." (van Elteren: 1996) This dichotomy is not so neat as it may seem considering the amount of foreign (including Japanese, Australian, and Canadian) ownership of many of the major 'US' film and television companies. (van Elteren: 1996) This struggle within the WTO system highlights the major differences in perspective over the role and relationship between culture and commerce, as well as the contribution of cultural industries in constructing and defining national identities. The emergence of a cultural diversity norm highlights the increasingly complex practices of multilateralism within the World Trade Organisation that are influenced or constituted by norms, rules, interests, identities and power.
Keywords: Cultural Diversity, World Trade Organisation, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Cultural Industries, Culture, National Identity
Doctoral Student, Globalism Institute, RMIT University