Transnational connections and flows: what is the impact of multilateral trade negotiations on cultural policies?



Christine Merkel
Head of the Division of Culture, German Commission for UNESCO (Germany)

Ángel Moreno
Sub-Director of Cultural Practices of the Secretary of Culture, Recreation and Sports of the city of Bogota (Colombia)

Garry Neil
Expert on cultural diversity and status of the artist (Canada)


Nguyen Phuong Hoa
Deputy Director General, International Cooperation Department, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (Vietnam)


Romina Delia
Arts Council Malta   

Key words: 

trade negotiations; trade policies; multilateral trade; World Trade Organisation; cultural policies; cultural goods; cultural networks; governments; civil society; free trade; UNESCO; culture negotiations; globalisation; transnational; leadership; conventions; cultural diversity; EU Commission; CETA; TTIP; TPP; TISA 





The speakers discussed the state of affairs in trade negotiations and the impact that trade policies have on cultural policies and the exchange of cultural goods and services. They reacted to the following questions: Who is setting the agenda? How can cultural networks, professional organisations and artists respond to new challenges? What is needed to sustain partnerships between governments and civil society in trying to address the concerns of the cultural sector?

They asked: How are trade negotiations being done in the culture sector? By Who? When? And Where? Is the “big elephant” the main actor in setting the agenda? Do cultural leaders need to be “marathon runners” to bring civil society onto the table?

One of the speakers who was meant to participate in the debate: Guy Martial Feukwu Noule from Cameroon, Africa could not attend the Summit due to VISA issues. The moderator of the session Nguyen Phuong Hoa, argued that if we want to have inclusive discussions on culture and change, the mobility of artists and cultural leaders needs to be ensured. Representatives from the Global South need to be allowed to participate and share their voices.

Angel Eduardo Moreno Marin presented the Commercial Treaty between the US and Colombia and provided examples of free trade agreements. He discussed the film industry in Colombia and how the number of international movies filmed in Colombia has been increasing in recent years. He discussed how various cultural markets are being organised across the country providing platforms to promote music, dance, theatre and so on.

Christine M. Merkel discussed cultural leadership and trade negotiations and provided some reflections on how it could be possible to achieve free trade. She argued that the political issue of such negotiations are complex and need further understanding.

Garry Neil discussed the 2005 UNESCO Convention and argued that some trade ministers are pursuing an agenda not fully in keeping with the commitments that 133 states (+the EU) have made in the Convention. He also provided some contemporary examples from CETA (the comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), TTIP (Trans- Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), TPP (Trans- Pacific Partnership) and TISA (Trade in Services Agreement).

Key outcomes

  • The fair trade idea is important and should be taken up for the years to come.

  • The negotiations processes require transparency.

  • When negotiators meet stakeholders they provide a voice to civil society.

  • The global cultural diversity movement needs to be reinvigorated.

  • In an era of hyper security there are various challenges for artists from the Global South. Article 16 of the 2005 UNESCO Convention calls for artists from developing countries to have certain privileges. It is up to the Global South to react and for the rest of the world to listen to the voices from the South and to help out.

  • UNESCO is are organising a training as well as a discussion space before and during the “Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” which will be held on 12th December  2016 in Paris, France. (See

  • Cultural leaders need to find a balance between trade and culture and they need to sustain partnerships with law makers, civil society and artists.


On Cultural Leadership in the 21st Century

The discussion was related to cultural leadership in the 21st century because it shed light on the importance of cultural leaders to form alliances and get further involved in a global campaign to review, update and improve the UNESCO Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions.

Garry Neil also argued that “As we consider cultural leadership in the 21st century... the global cultural civil society movement has lost its way. The 2005 UNESCO Convention was negotiated and implemented so rapidly because there was a powerful alliance between civil society groups and leading governments...” This Convention, however, needs improvements.

For example he said that while Canada and some European countries were among the strongest proponents of the Convention, CETA- the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is far from perfect. There are two strong references to culture in the preamble. The first states that governments may regulate to achieve legitimate public policy objectives, which include “the promotion and protection of cultural diversity” and the second gives context to the cultural exemption by specifically affirming their commitments as signatories to the Convention. But, the parties have agreed to an asymmetrical cultural exemption. For Europe audiovisual services are exempted, for Canada it is cultural industries.



Examples provided of leadership development 



Angel Eduardo Moreno Marin presented various examples of Colombia’s participation in international markets, which arguably can contribute to the participants’ personal growth as leaders.

For example, the second edition of MICSUR (Mercado de Industrias Culturales del Sur) is currently being held (from the 17th to 20th of October 2016) in Bogota, Colombia. MICSUR, The Southern Cultural Industries Market, aims to create and consolidate a platform for knowledge dissemination, promotion, distribution and marketing of goods and services generated by the cultural and creative industries in the region.

The first version of MICSUR was held in Mar del Plata, Argentina in May 2014, and in its first edition this was the participation:

  • 10 countries.
  • 800 buyers and sellers of South America.
  • 80 international buyers from Spain, Japan, Finland, United Kingdom, USA and China.
  • 9,500 Business Round Meetings.
  • 50 activities; forums, conferences, workshops and sectorial talks.
  • 1 Fashion Show with participation of designers from 10 countries of South America.
  • 30 live (showcases).
  • 8 Meetings from institutional cultural organizations in Latin America.

The debate about the importance of cultural policies for cultural and creative industries is increasingly common in the countries of South America, not only because of its economic importance, but above all for being scenarios representing the cultural diversity of the communities. They are also an instrument and support of a wide circulation of artistic and social manifestations. At the same time, this industry generates income and employment: in the region, cultural GDP reached 2 to 4% depending on the country, an amount equivalent to the main items of the overall economy. (

Angel Eduardo Moreno Marin also discussed Colombia’s participation at 22nd edition of the World Music Expo WOMEX, an international networking platform for the world music industry, this year currently being held in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, from Wednesday, 19 to Sunday, 23 October 2016. The annual five-day event comprises a bustling Trade Fair, Showcase Festival, Conference, and Film programme, as well as festive Opening and Award ceremonies. Twenty-one WOMEX editions have affirmed the value of networking across borders, be they musical, political, cultural or commercial. (



Problems/obstacles to developing sector leadership 

The topic of this discussion was not an easy one. Further training and alliances are needed for the development of leadership skills in the culture sector to be able to excel in trade negotiations in a more fair and transparent manner.

Magdalena Moreno, Deputy Director of IFACCA argues that probably the biggest challenge is: “how do you ensure that when you are talking to trade groups, they are understanding that when we are rectifying a convention the focus needs to be on culture not just on trade?”


  Examples of culture sector leadership on wider community issues

The training and the discussion space which UNESCO is organising during the “Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” which will be held on 12th December2016 in Paris, France is a good example where the culture sector is providing leadership on wider community issues.


  Recommendations for action to enhance sector leadership


  • Provide training as well as promote them internationally. The training and meeting being organised  by UNESCO in Paris in December 2016 needs to be further promoted internationally.

  • Form Alliances and regrasp together what it means to enter into these negotiations and agreements on trade.

  • Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase the cultural mobility of artists and culture professionals, by promoting a circular flow- not just North to South but circular.

  • Promote transparency tobe used in trade negotiations and decision making.


  Key quotations

'We need to reinvigorate the global cultural diversity movement. There is a missing cultural leadership here! We are losing ground and our prospects look bleak. If you are in a civil society, join me in this effort. If you are with a government agency, you should provide funds for these efforts and call on your government to fulfil their commitments under the 2005 Convention
' Garry Neil, Neil Craig Associates