Developing countries lag far behind in cultural trade, says UNESCO report

16 December 2005

Three countries - the United Kingdom, United States and China - produced 40 per cent of the world’s cultural trade products in 2002, such as books, compact disks, videogames and sculptures, while Latin America and Africa together accounted for less than 4 per cent, according to a new United Nations report.

Between 1994 and 2002, international trade in cultural goods increased from $38 billion to $60 billion, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report said.

But “while globalization offers great potential for countries to share their cultures and creative talents, it is clear that not all nations are able to take advantage of this opportunity,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura noted. “Without support to help these countries participate in this trade, their cultural voices will remain marginalized and isolated.”

According to the report - Flows of Selected Cultural Goods and Services, 1994-2003 - Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for only 3 per cent of the total trade of cultural goods in 2002, one point more than in 1992, though far behind other world regions. Oceania and Africa have not shown any progress, with a combined share of less than 1 per cent in 2002.

The report analyzes cross-border trade data from about 120 countries and presents new methodology to better reflect cultural trade flows, contributing to UNESCO’s effort to collect and analyze data that clearly illustrate the central role of culture in economic, social and human development.

The United Kingdom was the biggest single exporter of cultural goods in 2002 with $8.5 billion followed by the United States ($7.6 billion) and China ($5.2 billion).

The US was the biggest importer of cultural goods at $15.3 billion, followed by the UK ($7.8 billion) and Germany ($4.1 billion), according to data based mainly on customs declarations.

 

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