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TORONTO (Reuters) - Internet retailer Amazon.com has smashed up against Canadian pride in its efforts to open a distribution center in Canada, as booksellers grumble that it can't understand the role of Canadian culture.
"Individual Canadian booksellers have traditionally played a key role in ensuring the promotion of Canadian authors and Canadian culture," Stephen Page, president of the Canadian Booksellers' Association, said in an angry statement that calls on the government to block the plan.
"These are values that no American dot.com retailer could ever purport to understand or promote."
Seattle-based Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, already sells books, electronics, music and consumer goods through the Canadian website www.amazon.ca.
It was not available to comment on Wednesday, but it's not clear how much would change under the distribution center plan. The retailer has said the center would allow it to pass along huge savings to its Canadian customers.
The booksellers want the government to reject the application because they say it contravenes an act that requires foreign investments in the book publishing and distribution sector to be "compatible with national cultural policies and be of net benefit to Canada and the Canadian-controlled sector."
The government has promised to make a decision soon. But Conservative lawmaker Maxime Bernier, a keen proponent of deregulation and free trade, said on Wednesday that Canadians would end up voting with their cash.
"I think it's good. There are people who want to have more services. The Canadians, in the end, they're going to vote with their dollars, and if they want to buy something they will. People will decide in the end."
Canada's content rules call for radio and television broadcasters to air a certain percentage of content written or produced by Canadians, while booksellers must ensure that a percentage of their inventory is Canadian.
The Globe and Mail newspaper said the government, which has a strong free trade agenda, was leaning toward approving the shipping center because it would offer a "net benefit" for Canadians and the amount of Canadian content would not change.
Amazon, which forecasts sales of up to $7 billion in the first quarter, already competes with Canadian retailers, including Indigo Books and Music, Canada's biggest bookseller.
(Additional reporting by Louise Egan in Ottawa)
Reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Janet Guttsman