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FTAC petition picking up steam

SAG, Teamsters throw weight behind attack on subsidies

It started with one small group but, by Thursday, more than two dozen unions, businesses and local governments were voicing their support for FTAC's 301(a) petition, which calls on the U.S. trade representative to take on Canadian film subsidies (HR 9/6).

"There needs to be an intense lobbying effort, through everybody's contacting their congressional representatives and U.S. senators," Teamsters Local 399 business agent Steve Dayan urged at a news conference Wednesday.

SAG and the Teamsters are among the groups throwing their weight behind the grassroots Film and Television Action Committee, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit comprised largely of members of below-the-line unions.

On Tuesday, the group filed a petition for relief with the U.S. Trade Representative.

FTAC's petition, filed under a provision of the 1974 U.S. Trade Act, seeks USTR intervention with Canadian authorities in an effort to end or phase out Canada's use of tax credits and other incentives to lure productions north. Alternately, FTAC leaders want trade officials to ask the World Trade Organization to kill the incentives, which they consider illegal under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Richard Hardacre, president of Canadian performers union ACTRA, had harsh words for the move Tuesday.

"It's difficult to find a Canadian film in a Canadian theater with all the U.S. blockbusters dominating our screens," Hardacre said. "Yet this upstart organization has the nerve to insist studios stop filming in Canada."

"We will fight this attack on Canada's film industry and insist on the right to provide support to our industry," he added.

But Gretchen Koerner, chair of SAG's national legislative committee, emphasized that the FTAC petition targets only Canada's subsidies to U.S. productions and not those to indigenous Canadian film and TV projects.

FTAC chief Tim McHugh said he expects the USTR to decide whether to back the petition within 45 days.