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General Agreement on Trade in Services: 
A Resource for Librarians


What is GATS?

History of GATS

Present of GATS

GATS &  Gov't Services

WTO &  Gov't Services

Application of Regulations

Libraries as a Cultural Industry

Protecting Culture

Concerns for Libraries


Works Cited


Libraries as a Cultural Industry

In Canada, libraries are viewed as cultural institutions and it is expected that the government will fund library service for the public good. In this view, libraries are not seen as being in competition with other organizations that provide service. Libraries are believed to serve a societal function in the promotion of literacy and in the provision of fair, equitable access to information. Under GATS, libraries are seen as a service 'industry' and are being scrutinized for possible liberalization. This point of view sees only the service outcomes of libraries and does not consider the social values of these organizations.

Governments have historically faced challenges in negotiating protection of cultural industries in trade agreements, but such protection is highly valued among many countries. Goff notes that governments

"willingly open the territorial borders of the state in order to reap the economic reward that accompanies participation in a global marketplace. Nevertheless, they resist the concomitant cultural homogenization--the dilution of national identity--by simultaneously fortifying the nation. States are responding to globalization by attempting to restore meaning to national borders, not as barriers to entry, but as boundaries demarcating distinct political communities." (Goff, 533).

This attempt to increase trade but to spare cultural industries from liberalization is an issue in the GATS negotiations and during the Uruguay Rounds, the heated debate between the American and the European Union (EU) over a cultural exception for the audiovisual industry under GATS, threatened to undo the entire agreement (Goff, 534).

Site created by Sandra Anderson in April, 2003 as part of
LIS 583 - Globalization, Diversity and Information, a course offered at the
School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta.
Please send all feedback about this site to Sandra Anderson