Saturday 15 August 2009

WTO presses China for cultural revolution

On Wednesday the World Trade Organization published its response to America’s complaint that China’s restrictions on imports and distribution of American films, music and books are in breach of international treaties. The WTO report supports US demands to be able to sell directly to consumers rather than via state-owned companies. As the New York Times puts it: ‘The ruling goes to the heart of one of the biggest trade issues pending between China and the West: whether intellectual property, like copyrighted songs, books and movies, should be granted the same kind of protection from discriminatory trade practices as manufactured goods.’

If China responds, US copyright industries still face some significant hurdles. There is a thriving black market of very cheap pirated products for US companies to compete against. And China limits the number of foreign film cinema releases to 20 per year – a restriction that isn’t affected by the WTO ruling.

Potentially, however, the WTO decision presages a very welcome opening up of the Chinese market for America’s and other countries’ copyright industries. If this protectionist Great Wall is taken down, who knows how many hundreds of flowers may bloom…?

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