Home News EU – WTO complaint over Chinese media restrictions

EU – WTO complaint over Chinese media restrictions

Published on 04/03/2008

   GENEVA, March 4, 2008  - The European Union and United States saidMonday they had filed complaints at the World Trade Organisation over Chineserestrictions on foreign financial news providers working in the country.   The dispute has been brewing since September 2006 when China renewed themonopoly held by state news agency Xinhua, which prevents foreign providers offinancial information services from dealing directly with Chinese clients.   China been criticised by Canada, the EU, Japan and the United States forits restrictions on foreign financial news agencies such as Bloomberg andReuters.   "Competitive and open financial services information markets are thelifeblood of a strong financial sector, but China's rules have tipped thebalance against foreign companies," EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson saidin a statement.   The US also said it believed the Chinese policy to be in breach of WTOrules.   "China's restrictive treatment of outside suppliers of financialinformation services places US and other foreign suppliers at a seriouscompetitive disadvantage," US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in astatement.   The lodging of the complaints is the first step in the WTO's disputesettlement process which can sometimes drag on for months if not years.     The dispute comes amid growing tensions between China and Westerneconomies.   Last month, China suffered its first ever defeat at the WTO over a UScomplaint on car-part tariffs, and analysts expect many more disputes tofollow.   The case on auto parts was among a growing line of complaints at the WorldTrade Organisation targeting China, and the victory by the US could emboldennations to take a tougher action against the trading behemoth, some expertssay.   "The US could become more aggressive," said Andy Xie, an independenteconomist based in Shanghai. "I think Europe, now with two-way trade in favourof China, could also be more aggressive."   China, which joined the WTO in 2001, has increasingly become the focus ofWTO complaints after keeping a relatively low profile in its first few yearsin the organisation.   The tremendous growth of its exports has provoked the ire of its majortrade partners who accuse China of being a major beneficiary of the globaltrading system, but failing to abide by its rules.     As the EU and US have filed separate complaints, they will both have twomonths to attempt to reach a negotiated settlement with the Chinese.   Failing that, they can request a panel of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Bodyto examine the case.   It is possible that, at this stage, the two separate complaints would beheard by the same panel, sources said.   Mandelson said the Chinese rules on financial news "pose a serious obstacleto the business of EU financial information suppliers, which in turn impedesthe smooth functioning and transparency of China's financial markets."   "I trust the EU and China will be able to resolve this issue amicably andto mutual benefit," Mandelson added.   Schwab said it was "not in China's interests to restrict access to thehigh-quality, comprehensive financial information provided by foreign servicesuppliers."   "We hope the filing of our request for formal WTO consultations will leadto a swift resolution of this matter," she added.