Global trade partnership isa key plank in the United States' free trade and anti-piracy policies,America's trade representative Ambassador Robert Zoellick told filmindustry leaders and other members of the Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC)today (Mar 27).

Speaking in Los Angeles atthe official West Coast launch of the coalition, which was set up to lobbyCongress on the benefits of international trade and enforceable copyright lawsto the entertainment community, Zoellick stressed EIC's aims would createinternational openness and enshrined the notion of freedom.

EIC members include allseven major studios, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), AOL TimeWarner, the major guilds and other bodies like AFMA, the Recording Industry ofAmerica, Interactive Digital Software Association and the TelevisionAssociation of Programmers (TAP) Latin America.

The West Coast launch sawthe induction of the Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America,Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild of America, west, and the InternationalAlliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

In a clear message thatoutlined the importance of nurturing existing ties and developing new ones in apost-war global market, Zoellick urged EIC members to support ratification ofUS trade agreements such as the recent free trade pacts with Chile andSingapore.

His sentiments werereciprocated by EIC members, whose mandate is to provide rigorous support ofCongressional bids to eliminate trade barriers and benefit from the resultantstandardised copyright protection.

Zoellick told EIC membersthat while most eyes were focused on Iraq, once the war was over the US wouldneed to pursue its "larger aims". He added: "One of our aimswill be to try to lead the world in the direction of openness to all shoresbecause what free trade is about is freedom. To succeed abroad we need supportat home."

"If there is oneindustry that represents a world without borders it is the US entertainmentindustry," Zoellick said. "This is an industry that knows thatopenness is the water it has to swim in."

The ambassador pointed outthat California annually exports around $100bn in trade, a large portion ofwhich comes from entertainment. "If there is one state that should be atthe forefront of international development, it is California."

"The distribution ofAmerican movies and TV programmes in foreign markets is important to the healthof our industry and our nation's economy," Jack Valenti, MPAApresident and chief executive officer, said. "Therefore it is vital thatany trade agreements with our trading partners include commitments to protectour products from theft and to allow our products to move freely in themarketplace."

Zoellick denied suggestionsfrom reporters that given the current global climate foreign partners wouldremain skeptical of American interests. He said many countries, includingRussia and China, were keen to become America's international tradepartners.

"This country suitsitself by taking its higher values and promoting them."