Tomorrow I will be back at UNESCO, attending another meeting on cultural diversity. Several countries, most notably France, would like UNESCO to have the power to overturn the free trade commitments made through the WTO and the EU for that matter. Did you know that Brussels has told France that it must allow books to be advertised on television, something previously forbidden?
France and others would like to cement the principle of the “cultural exception” through as many international organizations as possible, UNESCO included. Of course the exceptions would not stop at culture, nor would the rubric of culture remain modest. Along other lines, some of the African experts at the meeting have come out for “enforceable sanctions” against countries that do not do “everything possible” to protect their native and indigenous cultures. I think this means us. I wonder if all of these people also favored sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. In addition to his better-known crimes, Saddam went to great efforts to destroy the culture of the so-called marsh Arabs, draining the marsh was only part of his nefarious agenda. In these meetings I am arguing for…well, if you don’t know…you haven’t been reading this blog for long enough.
The timing for this visit is less propitious than my last trip. Then the Parisians were talking up cultural diversity while banning headscarves in the schools. Now U.S. officials are squawking because the WTO is telling us we cannot ban on-line gambling. Here is Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte, sounding like a Frenchman: “It’s appalling…It cannot be allowed to stand that another nation can impose its values on the U.S. and make it a trade issue.” The Bush administration is planning to appeal the ruling.
So I will be busy. My personal posts will continue, but at a lower level than usual. Alex and our excellent guest bloggers will be active, and I will be back in full force upon my return.