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China Fails to Lift U.S. Movie Import Restrictions

25 Mar, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

China has failed to adhere to a deadline imposed by the World Trade Organization mandating it ease import restrictions of foreign entertainment, including theatrical and packaged media movies.

China apparently missed a March 19 deadline it had previously agreed to abide by loosening rules and limitations imposed on imports of foreign media such as books, music and movies. With a rapidly growing middle class, the world’s most populous country is seen as a market ripe for Western popular culture, including Hollywood movies.

The “U.S. government is disappointed that China has not yet fully complied with the WTO ruling in this case, a lack of compliance which China has acknowledged,” Nkenge Harmon, a U.S. trade representative spokeswoman, told The Los Angeles Times. “The U.S. government has communicated its concerns to China, and is working to ensure that China promptly brings its measures into full compliance.”

The Motional Picture Association of America contends foreign media restrictions have contributed to a $6 billion illegal DVD industry in China.

The WTO in January 2010 formally rejected an appeal by China of an earlier ruling that allowed Hollywood studios easier access to the communist country’s theatrical and home entertainment markets. The world trade group in last 2009 upheld a previous ruling that criticized the Beijing government’s guidelines requiring U.S. studios and record labels, among others, to distribute content through Chinese-owned firms and limited the number of Hollywood theatrical releases to about 20 per year.

Currently, just two state-owned companies handle imports of foreign films into China.

Greg Frazier, EVP and chief policy officer with the MPAA, said the studio trade group — while disappointed by China’s non-compliance by the deadline — understood Chinese officials were seeking a solution.

“We understand [they] are working to comply with the WTO’s ruling and that the U.S. Government is actively engaged with the Chinese government to ensure that China meets its commitment,” Frazier said in a statement.


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