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The Global Cultural Commons After Cancun: Identity, Diversity and Citizenship

Daniel Drache and Marc D. Froese

CSGR Working Paper No 178/05

The cultural politics of global trade is a new and unexplored terrain because the public domain of culture has long been associated with national sovereignty. States everywhere have invested heavily in national identity. But in an age of globalization, culture and sovereignty have become more complex propositions, subject to global pressures and national constraints. This paper argues three main points. First, new information technologies increasingly destabilize traditional private sector models for disseminating culture. At the same time, international legal rules have become more restrictive with respect to investment and national treatment, two areas at the heart of cultural policy.

Second, Doha has significant implications for the future of the cultural commons. Ongoing negotiations around TRIPS, TRIMS, GATS and dispute settlement will impose new restrictions on public authorities who wish to appropriate culture for a variety of public and private ends. Finally, there is a growing backlash against the WTO’s trade agenda for broadening and deepening disciplines in these areas. These issues have become highly politicized and fractious, and are bound to vex future rounds as the global south, led by Brazil, India and China flexes its diplomatic muscle.


Keywords: globalization, culture, new citizenship practices, trade, WTO, new information technology and Counterpublics.