24 March 2006
Ms. Gloria Blue,
Trade Policy Staff Committee,
Office of the United States
Dear Ms. Blue,
Re: Proposed Free Trade Agreement with Republic of Korea
This submission is made by the International Network for Cultural Diversity in collaboration with Free Press and the Korean Coalition for Diversity in Moving Images.
INCD (www.incd.net) is a global network of more than 400 organizations from 71 countries, including the United States, working to counter the corrosive affects of globalization on world cultures. Free Press (www.freepress.net) is a national non-partisan organization with over 225,000 members working to increase informed media debate. The submission is endorsed as well by the Media Alliance of California (www.media-alliance.org) and Reclaim the Media (www.reclaimthemedia.org).
We are writing to express our concern about recent developments connected with the launch of free trade negotiations between the United States of America and the Republic of Korea. In January 2006, Korea announced it is reducing its movie theatre screen quota system by 50 percent, effective July 2006. Within days, the office of the United States Trade Representative announced the launch of free trade talks with Korea. We believe the agreement to reduce the screen quota arrived at between the United States and Korea interferes with the democratic will of the Korean people to have their political representatives protect and promote Korean culture.
These developments highlight the wide gulf that exists between U.S. policy and the international community. Last October, over the opposition of the United States, UNESCO adopted a new convention on cultural diversity. The convention is designed to confirm in international law that cultural goods and services are vehicles of identity, values and meaning, as well as having economic value; to recognize the link between culture and development; and to affirm the sovereign right of states to maintain, adopt and implement policies relating to arts, culture and the media.
We urge the United States government:
- To propose an unrestricted and unlimited exemption for cultural goods and services from the terms of the free trade agreement with the Republic of Korea. The language of such an exemption is outlined below; and
- To exercise leadership to promote cultural diversity internationally, and within the United States itself, by ratifying the UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions.
Who we are
INCD is a worldwide network of cultural organizations, artists and cultural producers from every media, academics, heritage institutions and others working to counter the corrosive affects of economic globalization on world cultures. INCD believes that diverse cultures and artistic expressions can and must thrive in a world of global marketplaces and rapidly changing media technologies.
Free Press works to generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system with a strong non-profit and non-commercial sector.
Korean Screen Quota System
The concept of a screen quota system was first introduced to Korea in 1966. It originally required each movie screen to show Korean films for 2/5 of the days each year (146 days). Theatres ignored the law until 1993, when the film industry, led by the Coalition for Diversity in Moving Images, convinced the government to monitor the compliance of theatres to the quota.
Since the effective implementation of the quota, the Korean film industry has flourished. Between 1993 and 2005, ticket sales for Korean movies increased 200% and market share increased from 15.9% to 46.9%. Driven by the financial success, the quality of Korean films has improved, and Korean filmmakers have won critical acclaim. Recent examples include Im Kwon Taek, winner of the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival for the film Chihwaseon and Lee Chang Dong, recipient of the special director's award at the Venice International Film Festival for the film Oasis in 2002. The success of the quota also drove a dramatic increase in overall film attendance. In 1999, the number of movie goers was roughly 58 million, by 2004 it had exceeded 130 million.
The screen quota system has brought diversity, not only to movie goers in Korea, but also internationally. Movies from the United States and elsewhere continue to have significant access to Korean audiences (60% or more of the screen time). The rise in movie attendance and ticket prices means that the U.S. take from the Korea market remains strong.
Since 1947, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade has permitted countries to reserve screen time for “films of national origin,” and has confirmed that the rules on national treatment do not apply to such quotas. Despite this international recognition, since its inception in Korea, the screen quota system has been an irritant in commercial relations between the United States and Korea. During the 1998 Bilateral Investment Treaty negotiations, the U.S. argued the screen quota was not in accordance with the draft and the Korean government seemed ready to capitulate until popular pressure forced it to reconsider. However, pressure from U.S. interests mounted and, with the promise of talks for a full-fledged free trade agreement, the Korean government announced in January 2006 that the quota would be reduced to 73 days this July.
We have no doubt that the Korean film industry will be severely damaged by the decision to slash the screen quota. Any decline in production will result in fewer choices for movie goers everywhere. We anticipate there will be continuing pressure on the government of the Republic of Korea to further reduce or to eliminate the screen quota, and to eliminate television content quotas that reserve a share of screen time for Korean television programs.
Promoting Cultural Diversity Within and Between Nations
In October 2005, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization adopted the Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. The convention was adopted by a vote of 148 in favour and only two opposed. The United States voted against the convention.
The convention outlines how the processes of globalization can both enhance interaction between cultures and challenge cultural diversity; reaffirms the fundamental importance of respect for human rights; acknowledges the need for greater cultural interaction; acknowledges that diversity is strengthened by the free flow of ideas, as well as freedom of thought, expression and information, and diversity of the media; and the need to preserve cultural and linguistic diversity as the common heritage of humanity.
The most important objectives include the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions; recognition of the distinctive nature of cultural activities, goods and services as vehicles of identity, values and meaning; recognition of the link between culture and development; strengthening international cooperation to enhance the capacity of developing countries; and reaffirmation of the sovereign right of states to maintain, adopt and implement cultural policies.
The operative provisions of the convention provide the rights and obligations of the Parties. The accent is on rights, rather than obligations, and the overriding focus is on the sovereign right of states to adopt policies and measures they deem appropriate to protect and promote cultural diversity.
Various articles outline the extent of rights that parties have at national level, the need for information sharing, and requirements to implement educational campaigns to promote public awareness, and the important role of civil society to the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. There is also an article which addresses the “special situations where cultural expressions … are at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding.”
There are seven articles concerning the promotion of international cooperation. Parties agreed on the need to integrate culture in sustainable development; to cooperate for development, including through technology transfers, capacity building and financial support; to encourage collaborative arrangements; and to assist each other where there is a “serious threat to cultural expressions.” There is agreement on the need to increase capacity in the public sector, public institutions, the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations, all of which have a role to play in fostering the diversity of cultural expressions.
We believe that the convention is an important instrument not only for other countries but for the United States as well. Americans need to retain the sovereign right to make decisions about issues of media diversity, access of traditionally marginalized communities, and working to build cultural capacity.
The convention is not a threat to the export of U.S. cultural products. U.S. movies have roughly 85% of global ticket sales, U.S. sound recordings do well in foreign markets, U.S. writers and publishers benefit from increasing foreign sales, and U.S. artists and cultural producers are respected globally. On the other side, U.S. consumers would benefit from having access to a richer diversity of cultural expressions from abroad. More balanced trade in cultural goods and services will result from the convention. For these reasons, we urge the United States to join the international consensus and to ratify the convention.
Proposed cultural exemption:
“The Parties to this Agreement commit to guarantee fully:
1) the fundamental freedom of expression, information and communication and the ability of individuals to choose cultural expressions;
2) the protection and promotion of diversity of cultural expression;
3) the recognition of the distinctive nature of cultural goods and services as vehicles of identity, values and meaning;
4) the protection of national works, items or specific sites of historical or archaeological value; and
5) support for the creative arts of national value.
1. To this end, the Parties agree to exclude all cultural goods and services from international commercial negotiations and to grant them a specific regulatory status that is outside the regime governing trade in services and investment liberalization and is governed instead by the international law relating to cultural rights and cultural diversity and the intrinsic right of national governments to regulate the provision of cultural goods and services at all levels in their own territories and to support such provision through subsidies.
2. The Parties agree that the interpretation of the nature of the rights and obligations arising under this Article and the measures that are necessary to deliver those rights and perform those obligations shall not be subject to the dispute settlement provisions of this Agreement.”
International Network for Cultural Diversity
Kor Kor Amarteifio Ghana
Octavio Arbelaez Columbia
Jacques Béhanzin Bénin
Leonardo Brant Brazil
James C. Early United States
Mireille Gagné Canada
Jane Kelsey New Zealand
Ludwig Laher Austria
Nise Malange South Africa
Katerina Marinaki Greece
Bruce Paddington Trinidad and Tobago
Sultan Muhammad Razzak Bangladesh
Rafael Segovia Mexico
Yvon Thiec France
Verena Wiedemann Germany
Danny Yung Hong Kong-China
Garry Neil Executive Director
Albanela Pérez-Suárez Coordinator
804-130 rue Albert St.
Ottawa ON K1P 5G4