China to End Restrictions on Suppliers of Financial Information Services Challenged by United States in WTO Dispute
WASHINGTON DC – United States Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab announced today that China has agreed to eliminate discriminatory restrictions on how U.S. and other foreign suppliers of financial information services do business in China, which the United States had challenged in a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute brought earlier this year.
“I am very pleased we have been able to sign an agreement with China today to allow financial information suppliers like Bloomberg, Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters to operate in China free of unfair restrictions that threatened to place them at a serious competitive disadvantage,” said Ambassador Schwab. “China’s commitment to establish an independent regulator in this sector is especially important. The independence of the regulator is critical to ensuring a legal environment that is free of damaging potential conflicts of interest.”
“We had attempted to resolve this issue with China through dialogue, but when that did not succeed, we took swift action at the WTO.” Schwab explained. “We are pleased that the WTO dispute settlement mechanism has worked as intended, enabling the parties to reach a satisfactory resolution.”
“This outcome is particularly significant in these volatile financial times. It shows that the WTO and the rules of the multilateral trading system are successfully resolving major international trade problems. Removing these barriers not only gives our companies a level playing field, it also gives actors in China access to the high-quality, comprehensive and timely financial information from multiple sources needed to make effective business decisions,” Schwab added.
The United States and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today that is designed to resolve a WTO case initiated by the United States and the European Communities (EC) in March of this year. Canada later initiated its own case in June. The EC and Canada also signed MOUs with China today.
China’s commitments under the MOU address all the issues under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and China’s WTO Accession Protocol that the United States had raised at the WTO. China will:
• designate an independent regulator that will have no conflicts of interest with the companies it is regulating and will use a fair and transparent approach to licensing, as required under China’s WTO Protocol obligations. This is critical to providing a level playing field for our businesses in China;
• eliminate the requirement that U.S. companies must use an agent to do business, allowing them to make their own independent business decisions on how they want to structure their operations;
• limit the regulator to requesting information from financial information suppliers only if that information is relevant to the regulatory function, ensure the confidentiality of that information, and protect against its misuse;
• confirm the rights of U.S. companies to set up local operations in China; and
• treat U.S. companies at least as well as it treats Chinese companies, as required by GATS rules.
• In addition, as China develops new legal measures to implement its MOU commitments, the United States will have the right to comment on the proposed measures.
The United States and the EC initiated this dispute at the WTO by requesting consultations with China on March 3, 2008, and the parties held joint consultations in Geneva on April 22 and 23, 2008. Canada initiated its dispute at the WTO by requesting consultations on June 20, 2008.
# # #