Cablegate: March 21-22 Informal Discussions On the Draft

Published: Wed 23 Mar 2005 05:35 PM
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
SUBJECT: March 21-22 Informal Discussions on the draft
UNESCO convention on cultural diversity
RE: PARIS 01857 (NOTAL), STATE 49529 (NOTAL)
1. SUMMARY. A day and a half meeting in Paris organized by
the Canadian government to discuss the UNESCO draft
convention on cultural diversity brought us no closer to
consensus on the final document. The meeting was a rehash
of positions on such important issues as the relationship of
the convention to other international agreements, on the use
of the word "protect" rather than "promote" in the
convention and the "dual nature of cultural goods and
services." While the role of culture in development
received limited discussion, EC participation in the next
round of negotiations was not mentioned at all. End Summary
2. The March 21-22 meeting at the Canadian Cultural Center
in Paris was chaired by Janette Mark and Denny Gelinas of
Heritage Canada. Also attending were Ambassador Oliver and
DCM Koss, Xavier Troussard of the European Commission (ref.
A), Yves Fischer of the Swiss cultural ministry, and members
of the Luxembourg, Brazilian, Japanese and Indian
delegations to UNESCO.
3. The last round of negotiations on the cultural diversity
convention at UNESCO in February ended with major
substantive issues unresolved. This week's meeting was
billed as a discussion of some of those outstanding issues,
rather than a negotiation.
4. The tone of the meetings was set by the Brazilian
representative's opening observation that the last
negotiation had made progress but had been "hijacked" by
trade considerations. The Brazilian delegate also made the
first of many interventions about the importance of keeping
the word protect in the convention. He vehemently denied
that the word has any trade protectionist connotations.
5. Ambassador Oliver made the point that we are saddled with
the word protect in the convention as it was a word chosen
by UNESCO for the Universal Declaration on Cultural
Diversity before the US return to the organization. She
also pointed out that the last negotiations had centered on
cultural contents and not on true cultural diversity. The
Ambassador expressed the hope that the excellent work begun
at the last negotiating round to refocus the convention on
the role of culture in development would continue.
6. Despite the Brazilian's concern about trade hijacking
the agenda, the discussion was almost exclusively about
trade. The EC rep reiterated on several occasions that it
would be impossible to draft a convention that would not
defer to the WTO but that it is also not possible to draft a
convention without overlap. He also stated that it would be
nave to draft an agreement that affects the WTO. At a
later point the EC rep averred that US concerns about trade
could turn the convention into one about trade. His views
were consistently echoed by Canada and Brazil with Brazil
asserting that the purpose of the convention is to create
new rights and obligations in the cultural area, not in the
trade area.
7. There also was an insistence by the EC, Canada and Brazil
that the terms "protect" and "cultural goods and services"
must remain in the convention. According to these
delegations the words "have no trade connotations." They
also argued that "promote" was a feeble replacement for
8. The Japanese delegate was insistent that the trade
implications of the agreement must be considered, but he
also consistently looked for areas of compromise (though
none presented themselves). The Indian delegate took no
positions. The Swiss representative indicated that his
country sought the placement of cultural diversity in the
international legal order. They did, however, agree with us
that promote is better than protect because it avoids
possible trade inferences.
9. On the second morning, the Brazilian representatives read
a communiqu signed the day before by the Brazilian, French
and Spanish cultural ministers that among other things
"recognized the dual nature of cultural products" and called
for the new convention to have equal standing with other
international obligations. When we pointed out the
inconsistency between the declaration and what we were being
told by the Brazilian and EC reps, we were told that the
ministers did not mean to imply that the cultural diversity
convention has trade aspects.
10. Comment: While the Ambassador and DCM made consistent
interventions that the proposed agreement must not touch
upon WTO competencies, should avoid ambiguous terms like
protect and must avoid terminology like cultural goods and
services and the dual nature of cultural products we made
little headway.
11. The EC, Brazil and Canada were like a Roman chorus
predicting doom to the international legal order if we did
not place culture in its "proper" place among international
agreements. But they never were able to articulate why.
Though they may not have liked our message, they heard loud
and clear that we are determined to have this convention be
truly about the promotion of cultural diversity and its role
in development and not a trade agreement in sheep's clothes.
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