Hit & Run

Culture Trade Wars

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Neil Hrab, the current Warren Brookes Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, sounds the claxon on a brewing movement that could restrict the free trade in cultural products (and advocate for more state subsidization of culture in nations awash in American entertainment) through the International Network on Cultural Policy. The language of their FAQ is a bit squirrelly, but I suspect their plans would in practice add up to what Hrab says:

This alliance wants to pass a global treaty that would declare ?cultural goods and services? to be ?distinct? from ?ordinary goods and services,? with a ?specific nature? that must be ?respected.? That doesn?t sound very threatening, but such a treaty could hurt America?s ability to export its cultural products.

Once INCP?s hypothetical treaty is passed, it would guarantee that trade in cultural products be exempted from global free trade talks. This, in turn, would allow foreign governments to start imposing measures reducing consumer access to American entertainment products. Many American allies throughout Europe, as well as Canada and Mexico, already have such measures on the books. The passage of a global cultural protectionist treaty would make thus it impossible for the U.S. to press for further liberalization in global cultural exports in future trade talks. The treaty would act as a shield for protectionist actions wrapped in stealthy rhetoric about preserving ?cultural diversity.?