BEIJING (AP) -- China expressed disappointment Tuesday at a WTO ruling that it is illegally restricting imports of movies, music and books but gave no immediate sign whether it could keep trying to defend the controls.
A World Trade Organization panel on Monday upheld a ruling in a case brought by Washington that China was obstructing trade by forcing foreign suppliers to distribute movies, music and books through state-owned companies. The ruling allowed Beijing to continue reviewing products for objectionable content.
A Commerce Ministry statement welcomed what it said was confirmation that movies, music and books have both cultural and commercial status. However, it said, "The Chinese side feels regret about the appeals panel's other rulings."
The statement by ministry spokesman Yao Jian gave no indication what Beijing's next move would be. The ministry did not immediately respond to requests by phone and fax for further comment.
The WTO said China cannot limit distribution of U.S. goods to Chinese state-owned companies. It said Beijing's restrictions were not necessary to protect public morals.
The restrictions have been a key complaint by Western countries, who complain that China's rapid rise as a trade power has been in part aided by unfair policies that boost sales of Chinese goods abroad while limiting imports into its market.
Groups representing U.S. movie, music and publishing companies say the Chinese rules cost them millions of dollars each year in lost business opportunities. One assertion is that the restrictions on selling directly to the public are a key reason why there is no iTunes store in China, despite demand signified by the popularity of Apple Inc. iPods and iPhones.
The WTO case focused on complaints by groups representing music labels such as EMI and Sony Music Entertainment, publishers including McGraw Hill and Simon & Schuster and Hollywood studios Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, Universal and 20th Century Fox.
If China fails over the next year to bring its practices in line with international trade law, the U.S. can ask the WTO to authorize commercial sanctions against Chinese goods.