President Joe Biden has been urged to escalate U.S. concerns about the impact of two Canadian bills on Google, Facebook and Netflix during his visit to Ottawa this week, after tensions grew between the tech giants and the federal government over the measures.
Mr. Biden’s delegation has been briefed on U.S. views that Canada’s online news and online streaming bills, now going through Parliament, disproportionately target U.S. companies, which also include Disney+ and Amazon Prime.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has expressed disquiet about the bills’ financial implications for U.S. companies in meetings with Canada’s Trade Minister Mary Ng.
Ms. Tai’s office has briefed the White House for the President’s trip to Canada, her office said.
In a briefing for media Tuesday, Prime Minister’s Office officials confirmed that disputes would be among the issues discussed during the visit. The Globe is not releasing their names because they are not allowed by the PMO to identify themselves.
Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are to hold informal and formal discussions on a number of pressing issues, including trade, irregular immigration into Canada by the Roxham Road crossing, Arctic security and the situation in Haiti, they said.
The officials said the recent turmoil in the banking world, such as the recent failure of Silicon Valley Bank, is another matter likely to be on the agenda.
The visit will include a wider meeting between Mr. Biden, his delegation, Mr. Trudeau and Canadian ministers, including Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, Defence Minister Anita Anand and Ms. Ng.
A formal dinner for the President, who will be accompanied by First Lady Jill Biden, will include ministers, MPs, ambassadors and Indigenous representatives. The President will also hold a meeting with Governor-General Mary Simon.
On Monday, a coalition of U.S. trade associations wrote to Mr. Biden urging him to personally raise the contentious bills, C-11 and C-18, in talks with Mr. Trudeau.
Bill C-18, or the online news bill, now being discussed in the Senate, would make Facebook and Google compensate Canadian news outlets for publishing and linking to their work.
Bill C-11, the online streaming bill, would make streaming platforms such as Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube promote Canadian films, TV and music, and contribute financially to Canada’s cultural industries.
Laura Scaffidi, a spokeswoman for Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, said: “Experts have been clear: Bill C-11 and Bill C-18 are consistent with Canada’s international trade obligations.”
But a joint letter to Mr. Biden from 10 trade associations – including the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Foreign Trade Council and the Information Technology Industry Council – said Bill C-11 raises trade concerns under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The letter sent this week says Bill C-18 would make a “narrow range of U.S. digital companies” pay Canadian news organizations and broadcasters.
Tiffany Smith, vice-president of the National Foreign Trade Council, urged the Biden administration to intervene with the Canadian government directly during the visit.
“Canada has been rushing ahead with troubling policies that target U.S. companies and raise concerns under USMCA,” she said. “Given the pace at which these bills are moving through the Canadian Parliament, we have urged the administration to engage at the highest levels to ensure Canada does not move forward with these blatantly discriminatory bills.”
Washington-based Maryscott Greenwood, chief executive officer of the Canadian American Business Council, said it was not clear whether the issue would be raised by the President directly with Mr. Trudeau or in talks with ministers or officials, but she said the bills should be up for discussion.
“These are top-of-mind issues. They are not a small obscure issue,” she said, adding that Washington was aware of the Commons heritage committee’s questioning of Google and Facebook over the online news bill.
“It’s not just the bills but it’s also about the parliamentary committee that’s been noted in Washington,” she said.
Earlier this year, two senior Democrat and Republican senators on the influential U.S. Senate finance committee weighed into the debate over the Canadian bills, writing a letter to Ms. Tai about Canada’s “troubling policies,” which they said target U.S. technology companies.
Deputy U.S. trade representative Jayme White has also stressed “ongoing concerns” about the two Canadian bills at a meeting with Rob Stewart, Canada’s deputy minister for international trade.
The Globe and Mail revealed this month that Meta has resolved to remove Canadians’ access to both written and broadcast news on Facebook and Instagram if Bill C-18 passes in its current form.
Google last week finished five weeks of tests of a potential response to Bill C-18, restricting around 1.2 million Canadians from accessing news through its search bar.
The restriction prompted an outspoken response from the Prime Minister, who accused Google of making a “terrible mistake,” adding that the move was “extremely troubling.”
MPs on the Commons heritage committee on Monday launched an inquiry into the tech giants’ “ongoing use of intimidation and subversion tactics to avoid regulation in Canada and across the world.”
It said Meta and Google appear to be using their dominate market position to try to intimidate Parliament and summoned Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, to testify before them.