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Canada/EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement : What are the cultural implications?

CCA Bul­letin 9/10

March 22, 2010


Just the facts

In May 2009, Canada and the Euro­pean Union (EU) announced the launch of nego­ti­a­tions for a com­pre­hen­sive eco­nomic and trade agree­ment (CETA).  After sev­eral nego­ti­at­ing ses­sions, the par­ties are on track to con­clude the agree­ment this year, although there are some con­tro­ver­sial top­ics remaining.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment has released no infor­ma­tion about CETA.  From var­i­ous Euro­pean sources, we know that the scope of the pro­posed Agree­ment is very broad.  Nego­tia­tors are con­sid­er­ing issues that could have an impact on Cana­dian cul­tural poli­cies including:

  • Copy­right.
  • Restric­tions which limit for­eign firms from estab­lish­ing in Canada or acquir­ing Cana­dian com­pa­nies in film, broad­cast­ing, pub­lish­ing and the music industries.
  • The right of for­eign investors to chal­lenge deci­sions by gov­ern­ments in Canada, includ­ing those affect­ing culture.

Given the government’s inten­tions expressed in the lat­est Throne Speech regard­ing for­eign own­er­ship, there is cause for con­cern. A pos­si­ble future deep­ened eco­nomic agree­ment between Canada and Europe could also include a frame­work for cul­tural coop­er­a­tion, as favoured by the Québec government.

The Cana­dian Con­fer­ence of the Arts (CCA) has joined with other groups to call on the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to release full details about what is being nego­ti­ated.  The cul­tural sec­tor may have a stake in these nego­ti­a­tions but we can­not know the extent until our gov­ern­ment is transparent.

Tell me more

Canada has the most com­pre­hen­sive cul­tural poli­cies in the world.  Gov­ern­ments at every level and par­ties of all stripes have imple­mented poli­cies that try to level the play­ing field for Cana­dian artists, cul­tural pro­duc­ers, and dis­trib­u­tors.  Stretch­ing back to the nego­ti­a­tion of the 1988 Canada/U.S. Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA), there have been con­cerns that apply­ing rules designed for trade in other goods and ser­vices to cul­ture will unduly restrict the abil­ity of our gov­ern­ments to mod­ify cul­tural poli­cies and imple­ment new ones in response to impor­tant developments.

CCA has played an impor­tant role over the years and it released a sig­nif­i­cant study on the poten­tial con­se­quences for Canada’s cul­tural poli­cies of the pro­posed Mul­ti­lat­eral Agree­ment on Invest­ment in Octo­ber 1997.  That study showed how invest­ment rules could affect vir­tu­ally every cul­tural policy.

The cul­tural con­se­quences of CETA are unlikely to be as sig­nif­i­cant as other bilat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral trade nego­ti­a­tions.  This is the case because Euro­pean gov­ern­ments have many rules in the cul­tural field; for exam­ple, all Euro­pean coun­tries man­date Euro­pean con­tent on tele­vi­sion and encour­age it in new media.  But there are some areas where Cana­dian poli­cies dif­fer from those in Europe and these dif­fer­ences cre­ate poten­tial chal­lenges for Cana­dian policies.

1. Most Euro­pean coun­tries have imple­mented the World Intel­lec­tual Prop­erty Orga­ni­za­tion (WIPO) Inter­net treaties, while Canada has not.  It is clear that Europe will not agree to CETA unless Canada does like­wise.  Some in the Cana­dian cul­tural sec­tor believe this would be a good thing, oth­ers are not so sure.

2. Europe does not have exten­sive lim­its on for­eign own­er­ship of cul­tural indus­try firms, while Canada has poli­cies in the music indus­try, broad­cast­ing, cable, film dis­tri­b­u­tion and the pub­lish­ing indus­try.  Europe also has some very large music, media and pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies, includ­ing Germany’s Ber­tels­mann; France’s Vivendi and Lagardère; and Britain’s EMI, Reed Else­vier and Pear­son.  Europe may well attempt to har­mo­nize Canada’s rules with those in Europe, which would dis­man­tle the pro­tec­tions that some Cana­dian com­pa­nies have enjoyed for decades.

3. CETA will likely con­tain an invest­ment chap­ter, pro­vid­ing enforce­able rights to for­eign investors.  If this chap­ter, like NAFTA, allows a for­eign com­pany to sue the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment for any deci­sion that neg­a­tively affects its invest­ment in Canada, there may be seri­ous con­se­quences for Cana­dian cul­tural poli­cies.  For exam­ple, a Euro­pean pub­lish­ing com­pany could chal­lenge a future deci­sion of the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment respect­ing our book or mag­a­zine pub­lish­ing policies.

The key pro­po­nents of the UNESCO Con­ven­tion on the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the diver­sity of cul­tural expres­sions expected that it would carve out trade in cul­tural goods and ser­vices from the trade agree­ments.  Canada, the EU and most Euro­pean states are par­ties to the Con­ven­tion.  How­ever, there is noth­ing in that Con­ven­tion which pro­hibits Canada and Europe from agree­ing to do what­ever they want in the cul­tural field.  Thus the CCA will con­tinue to care­fully mon­i­tor devel­op­ments around CETA.

What can I do?

Using this let­ter as a tem­plate, you can write to your MP and to the Min­is­ters of Her­itage and Inter­na­tional Trade to sup­port CCA’s call for dis­clo­sure on the CETA negotiations.

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