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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


Protecting Culture

The European Union is involved in cultural issues on many fronts. Article 128 of the 1992 Maastrich Treaty (the foundational treaty of the EU) mandates a respect of cultural differences but also promotes cultural industries and institutions that create common cultural heritage within the Union (Galperin, 55). While this internal policy promotes the development of common cultural industry within the EU, there also is a strong policy of protecting these industries from foreign competition. As noted previously, this commitment to cultural industries was demonstrated during the Uruguay Round Negotiations when trade talks almost broke down completely because of the disagreement between the European Union and the United States over the protection of cultural industries. When comparing the similar stances of Canada and the EU in international trade negotiations, Goff states that these positions "sprang from the assumption that culture industries can play a central role in the construction of political community. They are one of the primary sources of images, ideas, and definitions that shape the loyalties of citizens" (537).

The Canadian government's advocacy to protect cultural industries springs out of its proximity to the American market and its relatively close cultural position to the United States historically. Galperin points out that with eighty percent of the population living within a hundred miles of the American border and with the majority of Canadians speaking English, there is substantial penetration of American cultural products into the Canadian marketplace (60). As a result of the cultural closeness with the United States, the Canadian government has "repeatedly articulated a desire to strengthen Canadian culture industries because of the contribution they can make to defining Canadian national identity and thereby to distinguishing the Canadian political community from other national communities" (Goff, 541). During the NAFTA negotiations, the difference in positions between Mexico and Canada's negotiations with the Americans resulted in a separate clause (Annex 2106) protecting Canadian cultural industries while the Mexican market was opened to American suppliers of cultural material (Galperin, 62). Generally the Mexican negotiators of NAFTA were not as concerned about culture as Canada and Galperin explains this difference as a result of "a combination of relatively strong domestic industries, [. . ] limited appeal of American products in some sectors due to cultural distance factors, and the neoliberal orientation of its communication policies" (62).

Ragosta states that the American approach to cultural industry is somewhat different from that of Canada and the EU: "wealth maximization is [. . .] the basis behind a U.S. philosophy that does not consider protection of culture part of legitimate international trade rules" (166). Atkey confirms this worldview, as he points out that "'Cultural Industries' is not a term that the United States understands or appreciates on a philosophical level, despite its precise definition in both the FTAA and NAFTA. If there has to be a term to describe this concept, the Americans prefer 'entertainment business'" (180). Goff's statement that "[m]any in the United States accused both Canada and the European Union of economic protectionism because of their stance on the regulation of culture industries" is not surprising given this perceptual difference of culture (535).

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has taken the position on WTO treaty negotiations that "publicly funded libraries are part of the cultural sector" and that "[l]ibraries should be part of protections proposed for culture and should support and be part of any possible separate treaty which allows special consideration for cultural goods and services in international trade"(Whitney, The IFLA). IFLA is seeking to develop alliances with WTO Member Governments to develop protection for regional and domestic cultural industries including libraries (Whitney, The IFLA). Clearly, the historical difficulty in negotiating cultural exemption in trade treaties is likely to surface again during the new GATS negotiations. The success of the EU and Canada in negotiating protection for cultural industries in previous treaties may help strengthen calls to protect culture generally and libraries specifically in the ongoing negotiations for GATS.

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