In This Review

Limits to Liberalization: Local Culture in a Global Marketplace
Limits to Liberalization: Local Culture in a Global Marketplace
By Patricia M. Goff
Cornell University Press, 2006, 208 pp

The "cultural exception" has been a contentious issue in trade negotiations for over half a century, especially when it is used to justify quotas that limit the showing of foreign (mainly U.S.) films in theaters and on television in France and the rest of Europe. Similarly, the distribution of print media has been an issue in Canada. This book attempts to provide a rationale for treating "cultural" trade differently from normal trade in economic relations among countries. It usefully describes the evolution and current state of Canadian, French, and European Union policies with respect to cultural issues, along with the current uneasy state of international agreement on these issues as embodied in the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement. It fails, however, to note the deep tension between the traditional French rationale for cultural exceptions and current EU policies, which discriminate between European- and foreign-origin films and programs but not among those of European origin. Nor does it define clearly what the limits to cultural exceptions should be. If a country's leaders decide that having an indigenous steel or auto industry is essential to national self-esteem, should the resulting trade restrictions be permissible?