Beyond Culture vs. Commerce: Decentralizing Cultural Protection to Promote Diversity Through Trade

75 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2014

See all articles by Sean A. Pager

Sean A. Pager

Michigan State University - College of Law

Date Written: 2011


Do culture and commerce conflict? The assumption that trade is incompatible with cultural diversity has disrupted economic liberalization, distorted world trade law, and caused lasting damage to Europe’s film industry. Collateral injuries from cultural protectionism now threaten to engulf e-commerce governance. Yet, American appeals to fully liberalize audiovisual markets continue to fall on deaf ears. The real question is therefore not whether to protect culture, but how. South Korea shows there is a better way. Eschewing the top-down model of European patronage, South Korean policy-makers employed decentralized mechanisms to set in motion the remarkable flowering of audiovisual expression known as the "Korean Wave." By harnessing economies of scale developed through exports, Korea reveals the potential to realize diversity through trade. South Korea’s experience is bolstered case studies from India, Hong Kong, and Nigeria, which further demonstrate that, by tapping into global markets, commercial success can drive cultural vitality. These audiovisual success stories, combined with the promise of digital technologies, argue strongly for a reconceptualization of cultural protection in a decentralized, trade-friendly guise. As part of such effort, this Article proposes an innovative "diversity quota" regime that would expand global markets for diverse filmmaking while remaining within the strictures of current WTO law.

Suggested Citation

Pager, Sean A., Beyond Culture vs. Commerce: Decentralizing Cultural Protection to Promote Diversity Through Trade (2011). Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business, Vol. 31, 2011, MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-06, Available at SSRN:

Sean A. Pager (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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