US raises trade concerns with Canada over online streaming bill

Washington has raised concerns about the trade implications of the Ottawa streaming bill, prompting a legal expert to warn that Canada could face hundreds of millions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs if it becomes law.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai raised concerns about the proposed legislation, known as Bill C-11, during discussions earlier this month with International Trade Minister Mary Ng at the meeting. ministerial meeting of the Free Trade Commission of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

The online streaming bill, which passed the House of Commons and is now in the Senate, would force US-owned platforms including YouTube, Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video to promote TV, movies Canadian videos or music, and would help fund Canadian content.

Last month, federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez claimed that the streaming bill, if passed, would generate at least $1 billion a year for Canada’s creative sector, including indigenous programming.

The Ottawa public record of the July 8 meeting with Ng did not mention that his US counterpart raised concerns about the bill.

But the record of the US government meeting says that “Ambassador Tai expressed concern about… pending legislation in the Canadian Parliament that could affect digital broadcast services.”

Alice Hansen, a spokeswoman for Ng, said Wednesday: “Ambassador Tai raised Bill C-11, and Minister Ng reiterated that this bill does not institute discriminatory treatment and is in line with Canada’s trade obligations. “.

Michael Geist, Canada Research Professor of Internet Law at the University of Ottawa, accused the Canadian government of ignoring the “commercial risks” linked to its online streaming bill.

“It’s clear that the United States is paying attention,” Geist said.

“By raising concerns even before the bill passes, there is an unmistakable sign that Canada could face hundreds of millions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs from legislation already facing widespread opposition from early Canadian digital creators. “, said.

Toronto-based business lawyer Lawrence Herman, founder of Herman and Associates, said that while Washington is raising concerns about the bill’s effect on American businesses and putting pressure on Ottawa, the United States is “a long way from retaliation.” “.

“As the American government is wont to do, they will threaten all kinds of retaliatory measures,” he said. “I don’t think they have a strong case unless they can show that the policies are discriminatory or targeted.

“In the case of Canada, they want streaming services to pay their fair share for access to the Canadian market. My assessment is that (the bill) is not discriminatory.”

Bill C-11 has received strong opposition from early digital creators and Conservative MPs who say it would allow a future government to regulate people who post videos on YouTube, a charge the government denies.

YouTube, in its submission to the Commons heritage committee, argued that the bill would impose international trade barriers to the “exchange of cultural exports” on digital platforms, including by Canadian creators, and set a “harmful” global precedent.

The government this month launched a consultation on the development of a model digital trade agreement.

He said such a model agreement would help Canada address emerging technology issues and build on existing free trade agreements, including CUSMA, the North American free trade agreement known as USMCA across the border.

Digital issues are also on the table in ongoing talks with the UK on a free trade deal.

The Office of the US Trade Representative had not yet responded to a request for comment on Wednesday.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 28, 2022.

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