The TTIP and Culture Conference - background

    
The TTIP and Culture Conference is a Nordic conference targeting artists, their organizations and representatives of organizations, institutions and production companies active in and disseminating arts and culture. The purpose is to improve participants’ knowledge about how free-trade agreements influence policy on culture and the conditions for producing art and culture and thereby improve the potential to discuss and participate in debates on the possible effects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated by the United States and the European Union (EU).

The negotiations in the World Trade Organization in the late 1990s especially created a need to clarify that cultural goods and services have two sources of value: economic value and as an expression of the culture of a country or region. The UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions converted this principle into a binding agreement, and 133 countries have ratified the Convention, including all EU countries but not the United States.

When the plans for the TTIP were presented in early 2013 and the European Commission’s negotiating mandate was established, the extent to which the cultural and audiovisual areas should be included was discussed. A large majority of the European Parliament adopted a resolution that called for the exclusion of cultural and audiovisual services from the mandate. The culture ministers from 14 EU countries, but including no ministers from the Nordic countries, underlined the importance of continued efforts for cultural diversity and recommended excluding audiovisual services. When the ministers responsible for trade made the final decision in the European Council, however, only the strong opposition by the minister from France excluded the cultural and audiovisual areas for the time being.

The TTIP-negotiations started last summer, and so far there have been six rounds between the delegations from the European Commission and the United States.

The Governments of Denmark, Finland and Sweden want all areas to be included in the negotiations if necessary, whereas arguments for “the cultural exemption”, also as a consequence of the UNESCO 2005 Convention, often are heard among artists and other actors in the cultural sector. Especially because of the very positive attitudes towards free trade among the governments and many businesses, organizations in the arts and culture need to advocate for a more cautious position on the TTIP.

The TTIP will also affect Iceland and Norway, the Nordic countries in the European Economic Area, but these countries will have no influence on the content, and so far they have had no significant public debate on TTIP.
 

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