Booksellers fighting Amazon's Canadian bid

Claim it would contravene the Investment Canada Act

TORONTO -- Fearing an apparent assault by Amazon.com on Canadian culture, the Canadian Booksellers Association is urging Ottawa to block the U.S. Internet retailer from establishing a physical presence in Canada.

"Individual Canadian booksellers have traditionally played a key role in ensuring the promotion of Canadian authors and Canadian culture. These are values that no American dot.com retailer could ever purport to understand or promote," CBA president Stephen Cribar said in a March 8 letter to federal Heritage minister James Moore.

Amazon.com has applied to the Heritage department for permission to establish its own fulfillment business here after using Canada Post for product delivery since 2002 to serve a Canadian version of its U.S. website, Amazon.ca (HR, March 8).

The local booksellers told Ottawa that allowing Amazon to operate on Canadian soil would contravene the Investment Canada Act, which requires book publishing and other cultural industries to comply with national cultural policies and benefit the Canadian economy.

Cribar urged minister Moore to place "reasonable limits on American domination of our book market" and to reject Amazon.com's current application.

Ottawa in 2002 ruled that the Investment Canada Act did not apply to Amazon.com, despite existing laws aiming to protect the Canadian book industry from foreign competition, as long as it operated without a physical presence in the country.

The CBA, representing local book retailers, in 2002 failed with a judicial bid to stop Amazon.com from operating in Canada.

The latest Amazon.com application has placed Ottawa in a bind as its cultural protectionist policies paradoxically allow the U.S. Internet retailer to freely sell books, e-books and other digital products to Canadians as long as it does not establish offices or warehouses north of the border.

Allowing Amazon.com to establish a new business in Canada, while opposed by local booksellers, would enable Ottawa to place conditions on the U.S. online retailer's business here.

Ottawa will rule on the Amazon.com application in the coming months.
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