All of Canada's international trade agreements include (an) exception(s) for the cultural industries, which exclude those industries from key trade obligations. It is designed to preserve Canada's policy space to adopt and maintain programs and policies that support the creation and distribution of Canadian artistic expression or content, without conflicting with trade disciplines included under the terms of the agreement. Cultural industries are defined broadly as those engaged in the publication, distribution or sale of books, magazines, film, video and music, as well as broadcasting. The cultural industries exception is technologically neutral. It applies to both the physical and the digital environment. Given its horizontal breadth, it overrides trade disciplines with respect to cultural industries in all chapters of the trade agreement, including the digital chapter, where one is included in the agreement. This provides the government of Canada will full policy flexibility to respond to rapid technological advances and changes in how Canadians produce and consume cultural expressions and content. In addition to seeking inclusion of a cultural industries exception, Canada also actively promotes the objectives of the Convention when negotiating international trade agreements by including explicit reference to its objectives and principle in the preamble of each agreement. Through these efforts, Canada continues to show its active role in the implementation of the Convention at the national and international levels.
Among international trade agreements concluded by Canada over the past four years, the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) exclude cultural industries from their scope. Canada is also engaged in several negotiations that are currently underway (e.g. ASEAN, Mercosur, Pacific Alliance, etc.) and continues to work in order to preserve policy space for cultural policies and programs at all levels of government.
This provision preserves Canada's flexibility to adopt and maintain cultural measures such as, tax credits, content quotas, or subsidies. In essence, the cultural exception preserves Canada's cultural sovereignty and allows the government to pursue various cultural objectives, including implementing preferential measures designed to nurture domestic cultural content, as encouraged by the UNESCO Convention.
No specific financial resources are dedicated to this the measure. The Canadian government supports its cultural industries through various measures that are possible because of the exception included in Canada's trade agreements.
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Cultural industries stakeholders
Civil Society stakeholders
Civil Society Organization (CSO)
The cultural industries exception represent a longstanding approach in the context of Canada's trade negotiations. To date Canada has maintained this provision with little or no changes from its original iteration in 1989. One of the strength of this provision relies on its adaptability over time. Its current wording is deemed to be adequate to protect policy space both in the analog and digital environment.