In my opinion, there are some controversial topics that we have to put in the centre of the table. Chapter 19 of NAFTA is one, and the cultural exception is another.
I was in the company of Mr. Brian Mulroney last week, as our offices are in the same hall in the legal firm I work for. We were able to discuss this. You will remember that at the time, under President Reagan, the cultural exemption issue was settled in the first week, and that of NAFTA's chapter 19 on the last evening. The cultural exemption in fact goes back to that period.
Mr. Lighthizer testified before the American Congress on July 17. He published a report of about 40 pages in which he lists all of the positions 30 days before the beginning of the negotiations. It is in fact interesting to see that the word “culture” is not mentioned anywhere in that report. It is not a priority for the American administration.
That being said, I am certain that at one point or another, the United States is going to ask for the abolition of the cultural exception. If not next week in Washington, it will be in November. Canada has to refuse. That is just as important for English Canada as for French Canada.
Everyone has to be on an equal footing, but we have to allow the government to occasionally subsidize or help cultural productions and our cultural industries. That is something that is now recognized by UNESCO. The cultural exemption issue is fundamental. We simply have to oppose its abolition.