The European Union and the United States have decided to file a joint complaint against China at the World Trade Organisation over how Beijing regulates foreign financial information providers, two people familiar with the issue said on Sunday.
The Beijing-based sources said China had been informed of the long-expected decision, which will add to strains in economic ties stemming from China’s record – and still fast-expanding – trade surplus with both the EU and the US.
One industry source said a formal announcement was to be made in Geneva, the headquarters of the WTO, as early as today morning. A second diplomatic source said final paperwork could delay the announcement.
Both sources sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. A spokesman for the EU team said he had no information.
Both Brussels and Washington object to rules that Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, issued in September 2006 to preclude foreign companies from directly providing financial information to Chinese clients.
Instead, foreign firms such as Reuters Group, Dow Jones and Bloomberg must go through Xinhua, which is also China’s domestic regulator of financial information services. The top US and EU trade officials both said last week that a WTO suit was a strong possibility.
“We continue to be concerned about the situation that China has set up where the regulator is the competitor in terms of financial information. We believe that is totally inconsistent with their WTO obligations and don’t see any evidence that they’re going to fix the problem,” US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in Washington.
“The EU shares the concern and we are definitely looking at the possibility of further litigation on this. I would just say on that, ‘stay tuned’,” Schwab said.
European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said after talks in Beijing the Chinese authorities were in no doubt where the 27-country bloc stood on the issue. “We believe non-Chinese agencies are being commercially threatened by new regulations promoting the interests of Xinhua, and I am actively considering what further moves the EU should take on this,” Mandelson said after meetings with officials, including Commerce Minister Chen Deming.
Schwab said the US was also considering other new WTO cases against China. Washington has won a victory against Chinese government subsidies at the WTO and settled two other cases involving semi-conductors and kraft liner board before getting to the litigation stage.
US trade officials have also confirmed a recent win against China in a case that challenged that country’s treatment of foreign auto parts. That ruling is expected to be made public in the coming weeks. (Reuters)
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