Does free trade hamper cultural identity? Anselm Kamperman Sanders dedicates his chapter to this question

Anselm Kamperman Sanders in his chapter “Trade in Audiovisuals – the Case of China” in the book “China´s Influence on Non-Trade Concerns in International Economic Law” addresses the issue of protectionist and restrictive measures and policies in the cultural field. Such measures and policies are not driven only by trade-related motives and concerns – even though such motives do play an important role here – but also by more subtle arguments highlighting the need to preserve the cultural diversity, or in the case of China, to protect the country from unrestricted Westernization through cultural channels. These issues are a source of conflict also between the European Union and the United States when negotiating their free-trade agreement, as the European Union aims at preserving the system of subsidies and screen quotas to protect the European cinema and audiovisual industries. These differences are demonstrated also in the fact that the United States, unlike European countries, has not adopted the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The reasons for this approach might be seen in the effort to liberalize trade in cultural services by the means of WTO and free trade agreements. This topic fuels even a more heated discussion and feelings when discussed on the Chinese soil, as culture represents the doors for controlling the human mind. The Chinese leadership is concerned not only about preserving the Chinese spirit in the cultural life of the country and its citizens, but also about preserving the censorship and control over the ideas distributed among the Chinese population. These efforts create tensions with parallel Chinese ambitions to be a part and valuable member of the international community, including organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO's case-law in this regard provides an illustration of concrete examples of the Chinese practice creating obstacles for the Western companies to distribute their works and ideas. Even though China referred to the objectives concerning the preservation of cultural diversity and cultural identity and related issues, attempting to invoke the public morals' exception under Art. XX of the GATT, the WTO dispute resolution bodies were compelled to draw a line and to make clear that China cannot restrict its trading rights on a discriminatory basis. This step was seen as necessary to improve the intellectual property and copyright standards in China. Still, the open questions concerning public morals exception and their ability to justify eventual censorship efforts under the banner of preserving cultural identity are not yet fully solved.