China to Work with WTO on Financial Info Case

March 4, 2008

China said on Tuesday, March 4, that it will respond through World Trade Organization channels to a case brought by the European Union and the United States over what they regard as unfair treatment of financial information providers in the country.

Brussels and Washington launched the WTO case on Monday, objecting to rules introduced in 2006 that require data suppliers such as Bloomberg, Reuters Group and Dow Jones, now part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., to operate in China through state news agency Xinhua — which is also their competitor.

“We’ve noticed that the United States and European Union have requested consultation at the WTO on the issue of financial information providers,” the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on its Web site.

“As a WTO member, China respects the choice of other members,” it said. “China will seriously study the consultation request and deal with it according to WTO procedures.”

Separately, the director of China’s General Administration of Press and Publications, Liu Binjie, said that officials were discussing the possibility of one day ending state news agency Xinhua’s formal oversight role of foreign media and information providers, although he emphasized that no decision had been made.

“The issue is being discussed at home and abroad. We will seriously listen to opinions from all sides,” he told reporters on Monday on the sidelines of the annual session of parliament’s advisory body.

“There is probably some misunderstanding internationally,” Liu said when asked about the WTO case hours before it was filed.

“Xinhua is a news agency. Unlike the government, it cannot take restrictive actions or measures,” Liu said, adding that the government moved to regulate news in the hope that it would be “conducive to protecting the country’s cultural resources, conducive to national security”.

“I think it is not necessary for foreign news agencies and data providers to dwell on complaining about formalities,” he said when asked why data providers had to go through Xinhua.

He said that Xinhua’s dissemination of foreign providers’ information was “a problem left over by history” but acknowledged that the Internet had weakened controls over dissemination of news in China.

China would sum up its experience on easing curbs on foreign reporters ahead of the Olympics, he said, adding that it would “continue to improve and perfect if it was proven feasible”.

China suffered its first loss in a WTO dispute earlier this month in a case involving imported auto parts, brought jointly by the United States, the European Union and Canada.

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