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WTO rejects China appeal on US media imports

[JURIST] The World Trade Organization (WTO) [official website] on Monday rejected [report, PDF] a Chinese appeal of an August ruling [text, PDF] that Chinese controls on US imports of books, music, and audiovisual materials violate international trade regulations. The dispute [case materials] originally arose in April 2007 when the US filed a complaint over Chinese restrictions allowing certain state-owned companies to reserve the right to import types of entertainment media, effectively forcing US companies to conduct business with only those business channels. The complaint also challenged market access restrictions on foreign service providers. The WTO originally held that while China may still censor certain media content, it may not use censorship as a justification for barriers on trade, and China appealed [JURIST report] that decision. WTO judges rejected the appeal, concluding that China had not produced any evidence to show that the original panel had erred in its ruling. US Trade Representative Ron Kirk [official profile] welcomed the ruling [press release] as a "big win" for the US. Chinese officials did not comment. Monday's ruling is final and cannot be appealed, but made no recommendations as to how China should comply with the decision.

Monday's ruling is the latest result in the struggle for intellectual property rights between the US and China. In January, a dispute settlement panel of the WTO found [report, PDF; JURIST report] for the US that large parts of China's intellectual property scheme are inconsistent with its obligations under several international treaties, including the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) [text]. The panel's findings came as the result of a process initiated against China by the US [JURIST report] in August 2007 for alleged lax enforcement of copyright and trademark violations [JURIST report; WTO backgrounder]. The panel's report concluded that certain provisions of China's copyright law as well as certain Chinese customs measures are inconsistent with TRIPS because they "nullify or impair benefits accruing to the United States."

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