TPP undermines Canadian cultural policy and global efforts to promote cultural diversity: study

March 17, 2016

A new study on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) questions why Canada agreed on a weaker approach to protecting culture in the recently concluded 12-country free trade negotiation, and assesses the ways the TPP strays from important international treaties on the promotion of cultural diversity.

“It is clear that Canada faced much stronger opposition on cultural issues in the TPP than it did during previous trade deals, most of it coming from the U.S. government,” says Alexandre L. Maltais, author of The TPP and Cultural Diversity, the latest study in a CCPA series on the TPP, What’s the Big Deal: Understanding the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Unfortunately, the results in the final agreement represent a turning away from values enshrined in the 2005 UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, toward the notion that culture is merely another commodity like anything else under free trade logic.”

Specifically, Maltais notes the following about how the trans-pacific agreement treats culture and cultural diversity:

  • The TPP enshrines a neoliberal or wholly market-based interpretation of cultural considerations that is at odds with the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, as well as past Canadian free trade agreements including NAFTA;
  • TPP countries have agreed to a conditional and quite limited general exception for culture and cultural policy based on U.S. government preferences influenced by the powerful U.S. entertainment industry; and
  • While Canada secured some country-specific cultural reservations (exceptions) from market-opening or liberalization requirements in the TPP, these are considerably weakened with respect to promoting Canadian content and regulating online access to audio-visual goods and services. 

“The TPP, if ratified, would be a setback for Canadian advocates of cultural diversity and their international allies,” says Maltais. “It is far from clear whether the partial and fragmented cultural exclusions the Canadian government ultimately settled for in the TPP can be relied on to adequately safeguard Canadian cultural identity and industries in the future.”


The TPP and Cultural Diversity is available on the CCPA website:

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Director of Communications, at 613-563-1341 x306.