Culture can is anything and everything that makes a community or country distinct including traditions, language, principles of justice, history, multiculturalism, and folklore. Cultural industries included in the Foreign Trade Agreements include films, video, music, printed materials, and publications. Globalization has brought about the exchange of trade and the rise of international business (Crane, Kawashima, and Kawasaki, 2016). Countries are now able to trade with other countries, and this brings with it an exchange of different cultures. However, many countries feel that these cultural trade products are eroding their cultures and therefore have sought to restrict some content from being aired or broadcasted in their countries. However, the US allows for free trade of these cultural industries claiming that America is a multicultural nation that values diversity and therefore restricting what people can see or watch is denying them the right to choose what they prefer (Schaffer, Agusti, Dhooge, and Earle, 2011).
The question, therefore, remains whether or not the US should join a list of other countries to restrict cultural trade products.
We can answer this question from two perspectives. First of all the US earns a significant share of its revenues from audiovisual trade and the film industry. This situation, therefore, means that the country has spread its culture throughout the world and many states are now adopting the cultural norms of the country. Exchange of culture not only leads to globalization, but it also enhances the creation of talent and creativity (Croucher, 2018). Similarly, the US also benefits from other cultures through audiovisual trade and the transfer of different cultures in the country enhances knowledge, creativity, and innovation. Looking at it from this perspective, one might conclude that it is not logical to limit the influences of foreign cultures in the community.
However, the exchange of culture through audiovisual trade has also led to significant erosion of valuable cultures. For example, in many countries, citizens were tied to specific cultural dress codes. In countries in the Middle East where the majority of the population is Muslim, hijabs are the most common attires allowed for religious purposes and cultural preservation. However, because of the rise of audiovisual trade from foreign countries, people in these countries are now slowly diverting from the cultural mode of dressing and are now aping the foreign dress codes and mannerisms (Vlassis, 2016). While this is an excellent indication of globalization, cultures are rapidly eroding, and the traits that distinguished one country from another are continue to diminish. States are losing their diversity making the world one global village (Croucher, 2018). The flipside to this is that critical cultural values are also going down the drains. There are specific cultural values that are highly valued by countries, and when they are at the verge of extinction, it means that nations need to take measures to restrict free trade one way or another. Therefore, from this perspective, countries should restrict cultural industry trade to some extent to protect diversity and essential cultural values.
To effectively limit the influence of cultural goods on communities, governments should ensure a balanced and equitable back and forth flow of cultural products to balance the culture of the country with the influence of foreign cultures. Secondly, governments should come up with ways to evaluate the cultural goods and determine which ones are beneficial to the state and which ones are not (Vlassis, 2016). For example, educational films, or documentaries focusing on animal conservation and other educative and insightful information can be given an opportunity for free trade. Others such as pornographic materials and destructive films and TV shows should be restricted to limit negative cultural influences. Lastly, governments should carry out an in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of cultural industries (Croucher, 2018). By doing this, they can identify the cultural goods and industries that pose threats to valuable cultures and ones that enhance or shift the culture in a positive direction. Governments can, therefore, restrict the weak cultural industries and allow free trade for the ones that improve positive cultural influences.
From one perspective, restriction on cultural industries and goods can be perceived as a way to protect cultures from being completely eroded. The limits mainly focus on the methods of preserving the culture, identities, and ways of life of countries and states. They ensure that specific critical cultural values are not under threat from foreign influences. However, from another perspective, these policies are disguised methods of trade protectionism. They are handouts to local businesses operating to restrict fair trade by hiding it as a way of preserving culture (Vlassis, 2016). Many nations utilize a variety of financial, regulatory, and business measures to impose subsidies on locally produced and aired entertainment, and in turn, restrict imports by favoring local content over foreign content. These measures often ensure that foreign material is much more expensive and much more inaccessible forcing consumers to opt for local content. These stringent and disguised measures many times impede the process of trade, frustrating the trade of cultural goods in open markets, and freedom of choice (Crane, Kawashima and Kawasaki, 2016). By placing trade restrictions on cultural products, governments are promoting their industries and local employment thus blocking foreign content. Therefore, the limits of foreign cultural goods by governments for cultural preservation is a disguised form of trade protectionism.
The new convention is meant to undermine the WTO efforts to liberalize cultural trade, goods, and services. The convention allows countries to put measures to protect and promote the diversity of their cultures by enabling countries to take up any appropriate steps to protect their domestic industries and cultures (Schaffer, Agusti, Dhooge, and Earle, 2011). However, the stipulation of this convention contrasts and aligns with the concept of free trade in several ways. Free trade is a policy that prohibits governments from discriminating against foreign trade imports or interfering with the process of exportation by applying tariffs to imports or subsidies to exports. In this manner, the convention goes against the concept of free trade because governments impose tariffs on cultural imports making products and services more expensive to discourage consumers.
Similarly, governments apply subsidies to local products, thus making them cheaper to improve the purchasing trend of consumers. Governments use the guise of cultural preservation to exercise trade protectionism (Crane, Kawashima and Kawasaki, 2016). With adherence to the regulations of the convention, every country will have a different definition of cultural preservation, and therefore they will restrict any audiovisual products that they deem culturally inappropriate. If this happens, it will lead to a significant downward trend in foreign audiovisual trade. The cost of audiovisual production and exportation will be high thus raising the price of content. With the rise of prices, demand will decrease thus interfering with the dissemination of audiovisual products and services.
If numerous restrictions are placed on audiovisual products, it will mean that America will not be able to export its audiovisual content effectively to other countries (Galt, 2014). America may respond by retaliating this move. For example, the America-China war is based on trade retaliation from both countries. American may also decide to impose heavy tariffs of products from the countries that will put stringent restrictions on its audiovisual content.
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Croucher, S. (2018). Globalization and Belonging: The politics of identity in a changing world. Rowman & Littlefield.
Galt, F. S. (2014). The Life, Death, and Rebirth of the Cultural Exception in the Multilateral Trading System: An Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Protection and Intervention in the Face of American Pop Culture’s Hegemony. Wash. U. Global Stud. L. Rev., 3, 909.
Schaffer, R., Agusti, F., Dhooge, L. J., & Earle, B. (2011). International business law and its environment. Cengage Learning.
Vlassis, A. (2016). European Commission, trade agreements and diversity of cultural expressions: Between autonomy and influence. European Journal of Communication, 31(4), 446-461.
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