Cultural exception (French: l’exception culturelle) is a concept introduced by France in General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations in 1993 to treat culture differently from other commercial products.
1993 Gatt negotiations
In 1992, some countries had voiced their concerns during the final negotiations of the Uruguay Round that implementation of the GATT principles on cultural goods and services "would undermine their cultural specificity (and unique status), in favour of their commercial aspects".
The purpose of Cultural exception is to treat cultural goods and services differently from other traded goods and services because of the intrinsic differences of such goods and services. Many countries defended the fact that cultural goods and services "encompass values, identity and meanings that go beyond their strictly commercial value". It notably allowed France to maintain quotas and subsidies to protect its cultural market from other nation's cultural products, most notably American, on television and radio. South Korean policy in favor of its movie industry is another example of how cultural exception is used to protect the audiovisual market.
First the debate concerned mainly the audiovisual products. Secondly, in the WTO liberalization process, every country decides which sectors it will deregulate. Audiovisual services is one of the sectors where the number of WTO members with commitments is the lowest (30, as of 31 January 2009) (Source: WTO) 
Draft agreement negotiated between members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1995–1998, The Multilateral Agreement on Investment or MAI's ostensible purpose was to develop multilateral rules that would ensure international investment was governed in a more systematic and uniform way between states. After an intense global campaign was waged against the MAI by the treaty's critics, the host nation France announced in October 1998 that it would not support the agreement, effectively preventing its adoption due to the OECD's consensus procedures. The French government had identified respect for cultural differences as a requirement for French support for the agreement.
Cultural diversity at UNESCO
Cultural exception has been gradually replaced by the more consensual concept of cultural diversity as shows the adoption in October 2005, of UNESCO's Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (which followed the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity). Sponsored by France and Canada, the convention was passed 185-2, with four nations abstaining from voting. The notable naysayers were the United States and Israel.
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is a legally binding international agreement that supports Member-States' wills to assert their right in applying cultural policies and measures that exclude cultural goods and services from international trade agreements.
The United States claims that cultural exception is a form of protectionism that harms global trade and that the UNESCO Convention deals with such protectionism rather than cultural diversity. In addition, it claims that the UNESCO Convention allows for oppressive governments to suppress minority cultural voices. The film industry and other cultural industries in the United States are also against the concept of cultural exception, as it harms their export market, and have lobbied the United States to take its current position against cultural exception.
- Canadian cultural protectionism
- Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
- Cultural Diversity
- (French) Hacker, V. (2006), « L’Art délicat de la politique audiovisuelle de l’Union européenne. Entre tractations commerciales et politique culturelle », Les politiques culturelles de l’Union, Dialogues européens, Presses de la Sorbonne, pp. 24-36.
- Canadian Coalition for Cultural Diversity
- (French) Hacker, Violaine (2011), « La télévision, un instrument démodé ou crucial pour l’avenir de l’Union européenne ? », revue Essachess : La télévision du présent et de l’avenir, Vol 4, No 7.
- (French) Hacker, Violaine (2011), “ Cultiver la créativité, corollaire de la diversité culturelle européenne ”, Revue Géoéconomie : Cinéma: le déclin de l'empire américain?, numéro 58, pp. 25-36.
- "A Global Culture War Pits Protectionists Against Free Traders". NY Times. 2/5/2005. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- "World domination by box office cinema admissions". GreenAsh. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- (French) "Cinéma : 2011 année de records en France". France Soir. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- "The “Trade and Culture”Issue, at the Origin of the Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions1". FICDC. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- UK Parliament Select Committee on European Scrutiny
- "The Exception Culturelle Is Dead." Long Live Cultural Diversity: French Cinema and the New Resistance
- UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (Art. 6, Par.2), 
- Acheson, Keith & Maule, Christopher (2006). "Chapter 33: Culture in International Trade". In Ginsburgh, Victor & Throsby, David. Handbook of the Economics of the Arts and Culture 1. Elsevier. pp. 1141–1183. doi:10.1016/S1574-0676(06)01033-7. ISBN 978-0-444-50870-6.