June 12, 2005 20:18 | Culture / Political

UNESCO slaps U.S. & WTO's wrist, fighting to preserve cultural exception

This is a few days old, but I didn't see it anywhere else. (Found in Sylvain's del.icio.us stream)
French article and it's Google MangleTranslation.

I'll try to un-mangle the more salient parts:

After two weeks of negotiations, involving 500 experts from 130 countries and coming at the end of two years of often difficult deliberations, the ad hoc intergovernmental committee formed by UNESCO unanimously adopted, with the exception of the U.S.A. and Israel, the final text of "a convention for the protection of the diversity of cultural content and artistic expression".

This means a few things, if I understand correctly:

1- Cultural and artistic "products" would be hands-off for any WTO laws/resolutions
2- Governments are thus free to circumvent traditional "free-market rules" in order to protect their culture(s). Essentially it is permission for protectionist market tactics; in this case a good thing (as opposed to political protectionism of culture).
3- America's extreme anger at this (almost assured) adoption stems from the fact that they want nothing more than to export their cultural products as far and wide as possible, and the seemingly rock solid belief that a free-market economy can do no wrong.

The sad thing in all this is the necessity to view cultural production as an industry, and it's fruits as products. The line between art and entertainment is so incredibly blurred...

Some more points:

Culture is valued as a means of exchange, development and social cohesion. "Cultural diversity is an essential resource of a society's cultural capital, as biodiversity is crucial natural capital [of an ecosystem]". States are implored to favor, "by a multiplicity of means", the diversity of "the cultures of social groups and societies."

The Americans were generally unhappy with the participation of the Europeans, denying them recognition of any competence in cultural matters (!!!). [Keep in mind there were 500 representatives from 130 countries from around the world. China, Brazil, Mexico and India in particular were also very outspoken and in opposition to the U.S.'s position.]
The U.S. is categorically denying rumors that they are threatening to pull the plug on UNESCO financing in retribution for this, what they consider a slap in the face.