Big news last week from Reuters—”China accepts WTO ruling on entertainment goods” ; “WTO: China cannot use censorship to justify trade barrier”—didn't get as much coverage as one would expect, and some media that did run the story ended up taking it down.
The Reuters story refers to a letter signed by ambassadors to the WTO from both China and the USA in which an agreement was struck that would see China remove all barriers on imports of books, music, films and other entertainment products by March next year.
While not immediately obvious, as the Reuters report suggests, where on the WTO website the letter in question was published, a document which closely resembles it can currently be found on the website for the WTO Center of the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research:
“…China and the United States have agreed that the reasonable period of time for China to implement the recommendations and rulings of the Dispute Settlement Body (“DSB”) in the dispute China – Measures Affecting Trading Rights and Distribution Services for Certain Publications and Audiovisual Entertainment Products (WT/DS363) shall be 14 months from the 19 January 2010 date…”
Lack of further information on what would otherwise be a quite noteworthy achievement has left some questioning the news.
Nonetheless, the story was quickly picked up and widely reported on by a number of Chinese media; below are some comments made on the news.
I support free trade, and I oppose being told what I can or can't buy and sell. China's markets should be open, and the things we don't need, we don't have to buy! How can it be called free trade if we're told what we can or can't buy or sell?
What China lacks is technology, not culture!
Since [the market] is open now, let cultural products from all over the world come in
Wait…does this mean…future versions of World of Warcraft will all get approved?
China will still have its two state-owned film distribution companies, and won't have to raise its current limit of 20 foreign films per year. The Chinese government will also reserve its right to censor foreign films. Thus, America or other foreign companies bringing in films will still be able to reject the deal with claims of unwarranted censorship or distribution quotas, wouldn't you say?
Sina Military forum:
What we really need to be importing is technology, not this crap.
The trouble just keeps coming.
What China needs is technology, technology, technology!
What's so wrong with Chinese culture? Does it need to compete?
As long as censorship is done outside the law, they can censor whatever they like. And we all know that censorship will never be made into law.
Only speaking from what I know, film censorship has never been written into any law, and censorship that is carried out depends completely on who's behind it. The film industry has made a fuss over this for years, calling for a rating system, anything, but nothing has been done and no reason has been given. Which is why a WTO ruling like this, at most, is just for the record. How could it possible curb film censorship? Do you think Warner Brothers or whoever will be able to pull off something like what Google did? Don't count on it.
It's a miracle alone that this news hasn't been deleted already…
In related news, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy will be attending the Shanghai Expo this week for “WTO Honour Day”, at which he will give a speech.