Heritage minister gets assurances from China on protection of intellectual property

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly says she and dozens of Canadian cultural organizations in China have been given assurances on protection of intellectual property should they enter the Chinese market.

Joly is leading a trade delegation this week in Beijing, Shanghai

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly is leading a trade mission in China this week, travelling with a delegation of close to 60 Canadian creative industry companies and organizations. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said she and dozens of Canadian cultural organizations in China have been given assurances on protection of intellectual property should they enter the Chinese market.

Canadian companies have raised concerns repeatedly with the Liberals about the lack of transparency in China's regulatory system and shortcomings in how it protects intellectual property rights.

Joly said her Chinese counterpart addressed those concerns during an event on Tuesday organized as part of a trade mission in support of Canadian films, television productions, music and books.

China, she said, is now more open to foreign investment, specifically in the video game and performing arts sectors.

Joly didn't say what kind of reciprocal access Chinese companies will have to Canada's cultural sector, which traditionally has been protected from foreign investment.

"In our sector in Canada, we welcome some key opportunities, but our focus is really on export," she said in an interview from Beijing.

"So we are really working hard on making sure that we can actually have good business opportunities for our sector in China."

Boosting Canadian cultural exports

The visit marks the second time in as many years that Joly has visited China. Joly is expected to return from the week-long trip with $110 million worth of agreements, including several deals for children's books.

Joining her on this trip is a delegation of about 60 people representing organizations in the cultural sector, including national and provincial museums that formed a consortium to help build and provide content for new Chinese museums.

Cirque du Soleil is increasing its presence in China, with plans to launch its first permanent show in the country in 2019. (Dirk Waem/AFP/Getty Images)

The government had a long list of interested companies that wanted to join Joly on the trip, according to documents released under the federal transparency law. The delegates that made the final trip list were chosen based on "each company's suitability and potential to draw benefits and yield concrete results."

The Liberals plan to spend $125 million over five years to boost cultural exports, although the details of the fund remain elusive to groups looking to access it. Joly said she would reveal how the fund will work at some point over the coming months.

A study released by the Canadian Music Publishers Association ahead of Joly's trip found that two-thirds of music industry revenues come from foreign sources — a reversal from a decade earlier thanks to a shift to online listening. The report said China is a key emerging market "where problems with copyright protection are the main obstacle" to doing business.

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