In the past few decades, safeguarding the world’s diversity in cultural expressions has been a major concern to many, also to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Preservation of cultural expressions often conflict with the promotion of free trade in all sectors, including the cultural sector. Cultural industries have become one of the largest industries in the world, and play a significant role to the United States’ exports. This thesis addresses the tension between the concept of ‘cultural diversity’ and the liberalization of trade by analysing the United States’ opposition to the ‘UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions’ (in the thesis referred to as the ‘Convention on Cultural Diversity’). Based on Herrmann and Shannon’s (2001) theory on factors shaping American foreign policy, I seek to explain how ‘material interests’, ‘normative obligations’ and ‘perceptions’ motivated the United States to vote against the Convention.
In analysing ‘material interests’, I examine the importance of cultural industries to the United States’ economy, as well as the role culture plays in national security. In analysing ‘normative obligations’, I seek to understand how the content of the Convention conflicts with other international treaties, in particular trade agreements, and also how the United States has a unique understanding of the concept ‘cultural diversity’ and the best means to promote it. I also attempt to understand how perceptions bias opinions when disentangling the effects of ‘material interests’ and ‘normative obligations’.
The study reveals that the United States has important economic interests to defend and will take necessary steps to secure free flow of goods, services, ideas and values across boarders. However, the United States’ opposition to the Convention can also be explained by its unique history which has shaped a distinct view of the government’s role in cultural affairs. It is therefore possible to explain their opposition in from a normative point of view as well.