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Cutural Issues in Trade Agreements: multiculturalism, liberalism and the NICD initiative



The development of an appropriate regime for trade, investment and the movement of creative and professional workers in the cultural industries will be among the issues for negotiation at the WTO in 2002 and beyond. One proposal calls for a New Instrument on Cultural Diversity (NICD), an international agreement outside the WTO. Cultural diversity at the international level is akin to a domestic policy of multiculturalism adopted by some countries. We examine the rationale and enforcement of multicultural policies within Canada, a country that historically has been committed to biculturalism, English and French, and to the concerns of aboriginal cultures. The Canadian multicultural budget is insignificant in comparison to government expenditure encouraging better communication and understanding among the two established cultures and multiculturalism has had almost no effect on the complex of regulatory, tax, and subsidy policies supporting the Canadian cultural industries. The Canadian case illustrates that a modern democracy is unlikely to support multicultural policies that do more than recognize and integrate immigrant cultures into the polity. An international trade agreement cannot impose by force the cultural preferences of a majority, as a country can opt out of the agreement. There is more diversity, both of a good and bad type depending on the perspective, among those countries opting in than would occur if a global democratic state existed. A cultural industry agreement negotiated under the WTO would permit more degrees of bargaining freedom in accommodating different cultural interests among members and be enforceable on members. The NICD, in contrast, consists of gratuitous promises and fails to address the problems at issue. Proponents of the NICD believe that policies of its member countries could not be challenged under international law. Since the United States would surely retaliate to restrictions imposed on it, either the NICD’s interpretation of international law is incorrect or international law has the same status as the Ten Commandments and far less moral authority.

Suggested Citation

  • Keith Acheson & Christopher Maule, 2002. "Cutural Issues in Trade Agreements: multiculturalism, liberalism and the NICD initiative," Carleton Economic Papers 02-07, Carleton University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:02-07

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    international trade; cultural economics; multiculturalism;

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • K33 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - International Law
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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