china censorship

US asked China not to implement strict cyber-security laws, WTO filing reveals

The United States asked China not to implement its new cyber-security laws due to concerns over the impact it would have on world trade, according to new documents released by the World Trade Organisation.

China introduced a series of strict laws in June that required local and overseas firms to submit to security checks and store user data within the country. 

Many businesses said that they would struggle to operate under the new regime and that vague wording of the regulations leaves foreign firms vulnerable to abstract interpretations of the rules.

The new rules are expected to come into force by the end of next year, but the United States has submitted a document for debate at the WTO Services Council alleging that the rules could impact cross-border services supplied through a commercial presence abroad.

“China’s measures would disrupt, deter and in many cases prohibit cross-border transfers of information that are routine in the ordinary course of business,” it said.

“The United States has been communicating these concerns directly to high-level officials and relevant authorities in China,” the US document said, adding it wanted to raise awareness among WTO members about the potential impact on trade.

“We request that China refrain from issuing or implementing final measures until such concerns are addressed.”

The two-page US document said the measures causing concern included the Cybersecurity Law adopted in November 2016 and the July 2015 National Security Law.

China is seeking to require companies to store all data within China and pass security reviews, fitting China’s ethos of “cyber sovereignty” - the idea that states should be permitted to govern and monitor their own cyber space, controlling incoming and outgoing data flows.

“The impact of the measures would fall disproportionately on foreign service suppliers operating in China, as these suppliers must routinely transfer data back to headquarters and other affiliates,” the document said.

“Companies located outside of China supplying services on a cross-border basis would be severely affected, as they must depend on access to data from their customers in China.”

China maintains a strict censorship regime, banning access to foreign news outlets, search engines and social media including Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

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