Liz Schéré


GATT, Cultural Exception, UNESCO Convention, TTIP, TPP


In studying the concepts of trade and culture in the context of international law, it appears at first that the two are at odds: the cultural exception approach vouches for protectionism and national sovereignty while trade defends liberalization and globalization. However, within this distinction lies a misconception. Culture doesn’t necessarily reject trade. The word “exception” does. This study presents and analyzes the notion of cultural exception within the framework of international trade law, specifically examining the legal protections and recourses offered by the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) and alternative treaties and agreements (e.g. Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (“CUSFTA”), United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”)). While this study shows that cultural exception proponents have a hard time making a case on the international legal stage, the challenge lies in how culture is perceived and understood from a legal standpoint. This study delves into a number of WTO cases to assess to what extent culture plays a role in furthering trade liberalization, taking into account the current international debate regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (“TTIP”) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”).

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