Consumer Electronics promotes free trade

Assn. teams with Hollywood, recording industry

LAS VEGAS — The Consumer Electronics Assn. is teaming with Hollywood and the recording industry to lobby Congress to promote free trade policies and resist calls for protectionism.

During his keynote speech to the annual gadget-fest known as the Consumer Electronics Show, CEA prexy-chief Gary Shapiro announced that his org and both the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the Recording Industry Assn. of America jointly sent a letter to congressional leaders on Monday.

Shapiro and co-signatories Dan Glickman, MPAA topper, and Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman, asked the lawmakers to help in “reducing foreign trade barriers and allowing us to sell the fruits of our industries’ genius around the globe so that our industries can continue to create high-paying U.S . jobs and contribute to the U.S. economy.”

Popular on Variety

“After decades of bipartisan support for free trade, we hear thunderous voices in the media, in Congress and even presidential candidates advocating protectionism as a solution to American woes,” Shapiro said in his speech. “We see isolationism gaining favor from those who want a wall around this nation. This is a dangerous and disturbing trend.”

“If followed, it will lead to economic disaster,” Shapiro continued.

Announcement signals that the tech industry and entertainment — at odds lately over copyright issues — can work together on some issues.

“We do have a common interest in free trade,” Glickman told Daily Variety. “It makes sense for us to work together.”

In the letter, the authors noted that “The U.S. consumer electronics, motion picture and recording industries are among the strongest drivers of American innovation and economic growth. Our industries promote the currency of democracy: ingenuity, innovation and the pursuit of personal and artistic expression. The growth of our industries, and our ability to promote American values, depends on access to foreign markets.”

Glickman said that, as Congress prepares to resume session and as the 2008 presidential race heats up, the time to raise the profile of free trade issues was now.

In his speech, Shapiro acknowledged differences between the worlds of high tech and showbiz.

“It is true the technologies and services that connect us can be used for illegal and harmful activity like identity theft and commercial piracy,” he said. “But technology is also a powerful tool for forces of good when used to promote the sharing of knowledge among citizens. One of the core principles that unite our industry is a passion for international trade.”

The letter was addressed and delivered to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). It argued that, if approved, pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea “will eliminate harmful tariffs, reinforce our commitment to strong intellectual property rights, and establish a level playing field for American workers by insisting on greater standards and transparencies abroad.”