Ottawa — The United States government has raised concerns about the commercial implications of Canada’s proposed online broadcasting bill.
A legal expert has even warned Canada that it could face hundreds of millions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs if Bill C-11 goes into effect.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai made her comments during discussions earlier in July with Canadian International Trade Minister Mary Ng at the Ministerial Meeting of the Canada-States Agreement Free Trade Commission United-Mexico (ACEUM).
The streaming bill, which passed the House of Commons and is now in the Senate, would force US platforms, including YouTube, Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video, to promote TV, movies, Canadian videos or music and to help fund Canadian content.
Last month, federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said the bill could generate at least $1 billion a year for Canada’s creative industry, including Indigenous programs.
Alice Hansen, the spokesperson for Minister Ng, said on Wednesday: “Ambassador Tai raised Bill C-11 and Minister Ng reiterated that this bill does not institute discriminatory treatment and is consistent with Canada’s trade obligations”.
Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet Law at the University of Ottawa, believes instead that the Canadian government is ignoring the commercial risks associated with his bill and in his view it is clear that the United States is paying attention.
“By raising concerns before the bill is even passed, there is an unmistakable signal that Canada could face hundreds of millions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs due to legislation that already faces widespread opposition from Canadian creators,” according to Michael Geist.
Toronto lawyer Lawrence Herman thinks that although Washington is raising concerns about the bill’s effect on American companies and putting pressure on Ottawa, the United States is still far from retaliation.
“As the US government usually does, it threatens with all kinds of retaliatory measures. I don’t think they would 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 to gain access to the Canadian market. My assessment is that the bill is not discriminatory.”
Still, Bill C-11 has been heavily criticized by digital creators and Conservative Party (CPC) MPs who claim it would allow a future government to regulate people who post videos on YouTube _ a charge that the government denies.
YouTube, in its submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, argued that the bill would impose international trade barriers to cultural exports on digital platforms, including by Canadian creators, and set a global precedent ” detrimental”.
The government this month launched a consultation on developing a model digital trade agreement. He believes such a model agreement would help Canada address emerging technology issues and build on existing free trade agreements, including CUSMA, and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Digital issues are also on the table in ongoing talks with the UK on a free trade deal.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office had not yet responded to a request for comment Wednesday.