EC: China's Great Firewall a trade blockade

The European Commission's vice president Neelie Kroes calls China's Web censorship a barrier to trade, and wants issue to be addressed within World Trade Organization's (WTO) framework.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Labeling China's nationwide Web censorship a "trade barrier", a high-ranking European diplomat issued a statement recommending that the Asian economic powerhouse be taken to task within the World Trade Organization's (WTO) framework.

According to a "="" class="c-regularLink" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">Reuters report Monday, Neelie Kroes, the European Commission's vice president and commissioner for Digital Agenda, said China's Web firewall, also known as the Great Firewall, is a trade barrier as long as it blocks communication for Internet users and prevents free flow of information.

The official, who recently stepped down from her role as the EC's commissioner for competition, advocated for the issue to be addressed by other nations under the WTO's auspices.

"I am pushing wherever I can just to get European enterprises a level playing field in China and the other way around. It should be reciprocal," said Kroes in the article. She was also quoted as saying that the amount of disruption from China's firewall varied from business to business.

Chinese law requires Internet service providers (ISPs) to censor or block any content that is deemed objectionable, which could mean anything from pornography to information that is sensitive to the ruling government.

Search giant Google was one of the most recent, and high-profile, victims of China's strict Net censorship, following the company's allegations that Chinese hackers had been responsible for the attack that was aimed at gaining access to information on local human rights activists. The company has since moved out of China and redirected all search queries from the country to its Hong Kong servers, to mixed success.

U.S. asks China to embrace foreign trade, too
The EC vice president's comments came a day after a U.S. official called for China to stay open to investments by the U.S. and other foreign technology companies in the clean technology sector.

In a separate Reuters article, Gary Locke, the U.S. commerce press secretary, revealed concerns over the Asian country's "local innovation practices". The report also cited other U.S. officials as saying that the barriers to China's fast-growing clean energy market could be "as big as the opportunities".

The report stated that China is pouring tens of billions of dollars into solar, wind, biomass and nuclear power projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to the current global warming phenomenon, and to replace depleting oil and natural gas supplies.

But China is not buying much from foreign clean tech companies, noted the article.

In the example given in the report, China's National Development and Reform Commission is overseeing construction of a number of mega wind farms capable of generating 10 or more gigawatts of electricity.

However, foreign companies' contribution to this business sector has dropped from 75 percent in 2004 to 24 percent in 2008, and could fall as low as 5 percent this year, noted the article.

Locke, who was leading a delegation of 24 U.S. companies to China to discuss trade opportunities, said in the article: "China, given the incredible challenge that it has, should in my view be taking the best technology from wherever--whether it's China, the U.S., Europe, Japan [and] anywhere else.

"We know the Chinese have made some modifications on their latest proposals for indigenous innovation. [But] other economies still have concerns about that, and we'll be discussing that with the Chinese," he added.

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