Australian Film Commission
This is archived information from the website of the former Australian Film Commission (AFC), now part of Screen Australia
23 September 2017
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Trade Issues

Free trade agreement timetable key dates
Negotiators have been in regular contact since the last round of formal negotiations in Hawaii in July, with an intercessional meeting held in late September. The next round of negotiations will start on 27 October in Canberra, with the final round to commence in early December in Washington.
AFC delegation lobbies key US stakeholders in Washington and Los Angeles
An AFC delegation recently travelled to Washington and Los Angeles to advocate the need for cultural reservations for the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement.

AFC Chair Maureen Barron, Chief Executive Kim Dalton and Policy Director Kim Ireland met with members of the Friends of Australia Congressional Caucus, advisors to members of the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee, key United States Trade Representative officials, as well as executives of the Motion Picture Association, The Screen Director's Guild of America, The Writers' Guild of America West and The Screen Actors' Guild.

The discussions provided an opportunity to put forward Australia's case for cultural reservations, to highlight the significant differences between the US and Australian industries in terms of size and critical mass, and outline the limited scope and transparent nature of Australia's existing cultural support mechanisms. It also proved an excellent forum to argue that cultural policy objectives focused on securing minimum levels of Australian content, not protecting the Australian audiovisual market from competition. The AFC also welcomed the chance to better understand the issues and concerns facing the US industry.

A limited understanding was shown by American industry representatives of the challenges facing Australia in terms of delivering minimum levels of local content to domestic audiences. Because of the success of individuals on the global stage, US politicians and stakeholders held an unrealistic and inflated perception of the size, strength and international penetration of the Australian industry. Our cultural support framework was sometimes incorrectly viewed as a system protecting our market from imports rather than being solely designed to foster an industry delivering local content in a small nation prone to market failure.

The US position is informed entirely as a consequence of the lobbying strength of the Motion Picture Association (MPA), acting on behalf of the seven major Hollywood studios. As a major campaign contributor to both the Democrats and Republicans, the level of influence exerted by the MPA on Congress and the US administration cannot be understated, a fact re-affirmed by every industry stakeholder the AFC spoke to.

The MPA are focused on obtaining unrestricted market access via emerging digital content delivery platforms. They appear to be seeking to secure 'standstill' commitments that would 'lock-in' Australia's existing support measures indefinitely, undermining the capacity of Australian governments to set future cultural policy in the context of changing technologies. Public statements made by the MPA and US negotiators declaring the US would offer the 'concession' of not seeking to dismantle existing quotas and subsidy measures, can only be seen as disingenuous in light of long-term US audiovisual goals.

The MPA regards the Australia-USA FTA as a very important precedent for ongoing negotiations with the European Union in the World Trade Organization, as well as emerging Asian markets.