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Concept of Cultural Diversity in the Context of the WTO Agreement: Some thoughts on the treatment of content items and the relationship with the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity (Japanese)

Tsuyoshi Kawase

Discussion Papers (Japanese) from Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI)

Abstract: Thus far, globalization has caused a cross-border diffusion of cultures, which could result in a homogeneous "global culture" (i.e., Americanization of culture). As a result, concern about the loss of diversity has become increasingly strong. In the face of such sense of crisis, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on Cultural Diversity (2005) confirmed the sovereign rights of the parties to take measures for the protection and promotion of cultural diversity, including those to protect and develop their domestic cultural industries. In effect, these measures include a great variety of national measures such as screen quota, subsidies, etc. However, such measures accord essentially preferential treatment to domestic or specific countries' content items. They are therefore inevitably in conflict with international trade rules, especially the non-discrimination principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement (most-favored-nation (MFN) and national treatment principles). Nevertheless, both the WTO Agreement and Cultural Diversity Convention are not equipped with a sufficient mechanism for inter-regime adjustments. In addition, the general principles of interpretation and application of treaties in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties could hardly contribute to the reconciliation of these two agreements. The government of Japan promotes "Cool Japan" as part of its growth strategy, known as the "third arrow" of Abenomics. It is therefore an urgent policy issue to facilitate the promotion of Japanese contents overseas through the "mega-regions," i.e., large-scale regional economic integrations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). With this in mind, this article, focusing on the aspects of trade in content items as trade in goods, presents the current status of the conflicts between the principles of cultural diversity and free trade, and gives some suggestions for further discussion on the future of international trade rules in this context.

Pages: 67 pages
Date: 2013-08
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