Asian Film Players Slam Donald Trump's Trade Rhetoric

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The GOP frontrunner has been harshly critical of past and present U.S. trade policy and has described the Trans-Pacific Partnership as "insanity."

The rise of leading Republican nominee Donald Trump has been watched with a mixture of bewilderment and irritation in Asia, particularly in China and Japan, two countries he has vehemently criticized over trade issues.

The specter of Trump as U.S. president has raised fears among some attendees at Filmart, Asia's biggest film and TV content market currently taking place in Hong Kong, that his rhetoric would negatively impact cross-border deals, while his opposition to international trade deals could prevent the extension of copyright protection on content.

“I hope he won't become president because it will affect relationships with countries in Asia,” said Sunny Sun, from the international sales department at a major Chinese entertainment corporation.

“I think he's good as president of a company, but not of a country. I think he doesn't like Asians. He should be more positive, Asia is a huge market. His opinions are unbalanced,” said Sun. “Politics does influence business: I'm in charge of Vietnam [as a sales territory] and when there were tensions with China in 2014, I couldn't sell anything to them.”

Trump's opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, which he has described as “insanity,” is also worrying to rights holders in countries which would see the copyright period on content extended under the agreement.

The TPP was signed in February by the representatives of 12 countries, including the U.S., Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, though not China. The agreement effectively imposes U.S. copyright laws to the other signatories, meaning that it will be 95 years before movies and TV programs become public domain after their release. In Japan, for example, the current term is 50 years.

“If Trump becomes president, there'll be no TPP and copyright won't be extended,” said Akhiro Takeda from the international business department at Japan's Toho. “A number of our classic titles would soon become public domain.”

Takeda also is concerned about the effect a Trump presidency would have on access to the China market.

“China-U.S. business is growing and that's helping to open the market for us, too. If Trump was president, then China might close up again and there would be a side effect for Japan,” added Takeda.

The representative of a U.S. content distributor at Filmart, attending the event to tap into the Chinese market, was more optimistic.

“Whoever represents the U.S. as president, it won't affect the appeal of American content,” said Darrin Holender of Los Angeles-based Multicom Entertainment. “And China won't want to restrict access to U.S. content because it will lead to more piracy.”

However, China already maintains a quota on the number of imported films given theatrical releases and last year placed restrictions on foreign content on Internet platforms. Trump's China-bashing has already provoked indignation, and the government is keen to promote the development of the domestic entertainment industry.

“Clearly Trump is out of touch. Before, we used to learn English, and now people are learning Mandarin,” said the representative of a Hong Kong Chinese distributor at Filmart. “It's undeniable that China is a strong country now, and Trump opposes China to his own detriment.”

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