MPAA chief stresses free trade at Press Club

WASHINGTON — Motion Picture Assn. of America topper Dan Glickman entered the fray over international trade agreements — a hot topic in Congress and in the presidential campaign — arguing a free-trade line traditionally associated with Republicans.

Speaking at a National Press Club luncheon Monday, Glickman, a former Democratic member of the House, said that free trade is much better than imposing restrictions. He added that he worries the debate over trade agreements has become “too political.”

“We need a new debate over trade,” he said. “The closer we get to Election Day, the further it seems that the global marketplace, the profound reliance of our nation on other nations for our future growth, gets lost in the political debate.

“Having spent 18 years in Congress, I recognize the temptation when the economy is down and American jobs are being lost,” Glickman continued. “Other people, countries and leaders make for an easy scapegoat.”

Glickman noted that as an elected representative and later the secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration, he had supported “most” trade agreements.

“The simple reality,” he added, “is that free and fair trade, with proper conditions and protections, creates far more opportunities for the U.S. than it takes away.”

Glickman said he supports the stalled trade agreement with Colombia. “We need to encourage leaders who are bringing their countries and economies up — toward democracy and toward the rule of law. Colombia is a classic example,” he said. The agreement was on a fast track for ratification until Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held a vote that effectively slowed it down to almost a standstill.

“I worry that the process to approve trade agreements has become entirely too political in this country — incapable of compromise and conciliatory discussion,” Glickman said. “It’s time for a new debate about trade policy. From domestic economics to world hunger and global stability, the stakes are too high to continue at this impasse.”

Glickman acknowledged Hollywood’s financial interest in trade, observing that 60% of box office and homevideo receipts come from outside the U.S.

In a Q&A following his remarks, Glickman cautioned against government regulation of the Internet and defended the cost of movie tickets, saying it has roughly kept pace with inflation. He stressed a need — and the MPAA’s efforts — to educate children about the wrongs of piracy, and, asked how he saw the movie industry in five years, predicted that “we will make technology more friendly and there will be more opportunities for people to see our product.”

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