Pols press passage of Aussie trade pact

Calif. Dems say deal would create entertainment jobs

WASHINGTON — Several California lawmakers Thursday urged Congress to quickly approve the U.S.-Australia free-trade agreement, which would strengthen copyright protection for U.S. intellectual property and provide better market access for U.S. film and TV exports.

Democratic Los Angeles-area Reps. Howard Berman, Adam Schiff and Diane Watson predicted that the trade deal would create jobs for the entertainment industry in L.A. and urged the House GOP leadership to schedule a vote as soon as possible.

“This agreement ensures that Australia will continue to be one of our largest markets for entertainment products,” Berman said in a statement.

Stuart Roy, spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), does not expect a vote on the deal before June but noted that the issue is on the leadership’s radar screen.

In an election year, Republicans are leery of forcing too many trade votes on members from key Southern districts who oppose free trade treaties.

Zero tolerance

U.S. trade reps finished negotiations in February, securing commitments from Australia for zero tariffs on all U.S. movies, music, consumer products, books and magazines exports.

Australia, which ranks as the eighth-largest market for filmed entertainment, also agreed to implement World Intellectual Property Organization Internet Treaties, which provide antipiracy protections for digital copyrighted material and extend the current term of protection for copyrighted works 20 years.