UNESCO convention gets green light

Thirty countries pledge to protect 'cultural diversity'

PARIS — UNESCO’s controversial “cultural diversity” convention, which defends signatory countries’ right to subsidize their film and TV industries, will come a step closer to enactment Tuesday.

Convention, which pitted practically every other country in the world against the U.S. last year, appears to have been ratified by the requisite 30 countries in record time.

Barring surprises, the United Nations Education, Science & Culture Organization is expecting to receive at least 13 ratification documents from member states plus one from the European Union at a ceremony Tuesday in Brussels.

The convention will become a binding legal instrument three months later, just 18 months after it was adopted. The previous record for a cultural convention was two years.

Countries that have ratified the new convention must protect and promote national industries in the name of “cultural diversity.”

What that means in practice remains to be seen.

The convention’s supporters, led by France, intend to use it to fight deregulation of film and TV industries in international trade negotiations where, currently, only anti-protectionist laws hold sway.

The U.S. is opposed, claiming the convention contradicts international laws on free trade.

Along with Canada, France and Spain, many of the early signers were francophone countries in the developing world with practically nonexistent film and TV interests.

However, developing countries also are being targeted by the U.S. to sign bilateral trade agreements — and a promise not to regulate their film and TV industries usually is part of the bargain.

European countries that have ratified include Austria, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Sweden and Romania.

Britain and Germany are among those that have yet to ratify the convention.