Financial Time Sept 22, 2009. China has filed a last-minute appeal against a World Trade Organisation ruling that it unfairly restricts the sale of US films, music and books, reviving an argument that its restrictions were needed to protect public morals and Chinese culture.
Beijing has often argued that it is protecting its citizens – and particularly its children – from pornography and other vices to justify its tight control over the media, the internet, and the distribution in China of western entertainment products.
A World Trade Organisation panel last month largely upheld Washingtons complaint that Beijing was breaking WTO rules and its 2001 WTO entry terms by requiring all imported entertainment products to be channelled through state-run distributors.
China defended its restrictions on entertainment products by arguing that they were needed to protect public morals and Chinese culture.
Tuesdays appeal comes at a time of heightened trade tension between the US and China on the eve of the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh later this week, when leaders are due to reaffirm their commitment to avoid protectionism and conclude the long-delayed Doha round of global trade talks.
Earlier this month, the Obama administration slapped punitive tariffs on imports of Chinese tyres, prompting a WTO challenge by China, which also announced anti-dumping investigations into imports of US chicken and auto parts.
Pascal Lamy, WTO director-general, warned last week that the US tyres decision risked provoking a spiral of tit-for-tat retaliation that could weaken trades contribution to a global economic recovery.
The entertainment case will now go to the WTOs appeals tribunal, which is likely to deliver its judgment early next year.
Although WTO rules permit governments to justify trade barriers on the grounds of protecting public morality, the panel said Chinas measures were more restrictive than they needed to be to attain its objectives.
The WTO ruling did not reject the import quota of 20 foreign films a year that are funnelled through China Film, a state company, nor did it challenge Chinas right to censor foreign films and publications.
But it said foreign producers of copyrighted material should not be forced to use monopoly distributors and that music companies should be able to form joint ventures with Chinese enterprises to sell music over the internet.
Chinas box office sales were about $650m in 2008, of which 40 per cent was earned by foreign films including the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace.
The United States Trade Representative said on Tuesday that the US had not appealed against the ruling, and would now go through the appeals process.”We have just received this document and are analyzing it now,” said a USTR spokeswoman. ”We anticipate results of the appeal at the end of the year.”
Elliot Feldman, head of international trade at law firm Baker & Hostetler, said China may end up disappointed and frustrated with the WTO.
“The Chinese are determined to exercise their WTO rights now, and to be full-blown international partners, [but] it isnt going to do them a whole lot of good. It takes too long and the United States has endless ways of blocking things.”
中国2008年票房收入约为6.5亿美元，其中40%来自外国影片，其中包括《007：量子危机》(James Bond: Quantum of Solace)。
美国贸易代表办公室(Office of the United States Trade Representative)周二表示，美国尚未就裁决提起上诉，目前将进入上诉程序。“我们刚刚收到这份文件，现在正在分析，”该办公室的一名女发言人表示。“我们期待在年底获得上诉结果。”
贝克豪思律师事务所(Baker & Hostetler)国际贸易部门主管埃里奥特•费尔德曼(Elliot Feldman)表示，中国最终可能会对WTO感到失望和沮丧。