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This article was updated on Aug. 29, 2003.

Film U.S., an organization of state and local film commissions, has endorsed a controversial effort to seek a ruling from the World Trade Organization that Canadian production subsidies are illegal.

The 5-year-old Film & Television Action Committee, comprised of below-the-line Hollywood workers, announced this week the endorsement of Film U.S. on the contentious issue, which has pitted FTAC against much of the showbiz establishment.

Move comes after a year in which FTAC has operated largely under the showbiz radar. It has spent most of its energy on prepping a NAFTA Section 301(a) petition asking the U.S. Trade Representative to initiate negotiations with Canada to remove its subsidies, backed by the threat of intervention of the WTO, as the most effective way of putting the brakes on productions fleeing to less-expensive locations outside the U.S.

But orgs such as the MPAA, the American Film Marketing Assn., DGA, IATSE and AFTRA have long contended that such a strategy could backfire by leading to a trade war and further loss of jobs.

FTAC chief Brent Swift said his org plans to ramp up a fund-raising campaign to generate about $150,000 it needs to pay for the legal costs of filing the NAFTA petition.

FTAC generated significant notice by drawing thousands of below-the-line workers to rallies and through its controversial 2001 filing seeking countervailing tariffs against producers who use Canadian subsidies. It withdrew the petition a month later and has not refiled it.

Swift said the Canadian incentives have pushed down employment in film and TV in Los Angeles and forced below-the-line workers to leave the industry.

“We hear similar stories from cities all over the country,” he said. “Runaway production is a nationwide problem requiring a solution on the national level, which is why we are so pleased to have the support of Film U.S. All we want is the restoration of normal conditions to the marketplace so that there is fair competition on a level playing field.”

FTAC has previously received support from Teamsters Local 724, Plasterers Local 755, IBEW Local 40 and IATSE Locals 695 and 871.