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Notice

WTO Dispute Settlement Proceeding Regarding China-Certain Measures Affecting Electronic Payment Services

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Office of the United States Trade Representative.

ACTION:

Notice; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) is providing notice that on February 11, 2011, the United States requested establishment of a dispute settlement panel under the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (“WTO Agreement”) with the People's Republic of China (“China”) concerning certain restrictions and requirements maintained by China affecting electronic payment services for payment card transactions and the suppliers of those services. That request may be found at http://www.wto.org contained in a document designated as WT/DS413/2. USTR invites written comments from the public concerning the issues raised in this dispute.

DATES:

Although USTR will accept any comments received during the course of the dispute settlement proceedings, comments should be submitted on or before May 2, 2011, to be assured of timely consideration by USTR.

ADDRESSES:

Public comments should be submitted electronically to http://www.regulations.gov, docket number USTR-2010-026. If you are unable to provide submissions to http://www.regulations.gov, please contact Sandy McKinzy at (202) 395-9483 to arrange for an alternative method of transmission. If (as explained below) the comment contains confidential information, then the comment should be submitted by fax only to Sandy McKinzy at (202) 395-3640.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Frank J. Schweitzer, Associate General Counsel, Office of the United States Trade Representative, 600 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20508, (202) 395-3150.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Section 127(b)(1) of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) (19 U.S.C. 3537(b)(1)) requires that notice and opportunity for comment be provided after the United States submits or receives a request for establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel. Consistent with this obligation, USTR is providing notice that it has requested a panel pursuant to the WTO Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (“DSU”). Once it is established, the panel will hold its meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, and would be expected to issue a report on its findings and recommendations within nine months of its establishment.

Major Issues Raised by the United States

On September 15, 2010, the United States requested consultations with China concerning issues relating to certain restrictions and requirements maintained by China affecting electronic payment services for payment card transactions and the suppliers of those services. Electronic payment services involve the services through which transactions involving credit card, debit card, charge card, check card, automated teller machine (“ATM”) card, prepaid card, or other similar card or money transmission product, are processed and through which transfers of funds between institutions participating in the transactions are managed and facilitated. In the financial services sector, as set out in China's Schedule of Specific Commitments on Services annexed to the Protocol on the Accession of the People's Republic of China, China undertook both market access and national treatment commitments with respect to these services.

Despite its GATS commitments, China imposes market access restrictions and requirements on service suppliers of other Members seeking to supply electronic payment services in China. China UnionPay (“CUP”), a Chinese entity, is the only entity that China permits to supply electronic payment services for payment card transactions denominated and paid in renminbi (“RMB”) in China. China also requires the handling by CUP of all RMB transactions in Macao or Hong Kong using payment cards issued in Mainland China, as well as any RMB transactions in Mainland China using RMB payment cards issued in Hong Kong, China or Macao, China.

In addition, China requires all payment card processing devices at merchant locations, all ATMs, and all point-of-sale (“POS”) terminals in China to be compatible with CUP's system and capable of accepting CUP payment cards. China also requires that all acquiring institutions post the CUP logo and be capable of accepting all payment cards bearing the CUP logo. China further requires that all payment cards, including “dual currency” cards, issued in China capable of being used for transactions denominated and paid in RMB bear the CUP logo. These measures do not impose similar requirements regarding non-CUP payment cards or to transactions using non-CUP payment cards. China also requires that all inter-bank transactions involving payment cards be handled through CUP. China prohibits the use of non-CUP payment cards for cross-region or inter-bank transactions.

The United States considers that these measures are inconsistent with China's obligations under GATS Article XVI:1 to accord services and services suppliers of any other Member treatment no less favorable than that provided for in Start Printed Page 12402China's Schedule and that China is maintaining or adopting measures set out in Article XVI:2. The United States also considers that these measures are inconsistent with China's obligations under GATS Article XVII to accord to services and service suppliers of any other Member treatment no less favorable than that it accords to its own like services and service suppliers.

In its request for the establishment of a panel, the United States identified the following instruments through which the United States understands that China maintains these measures:

  • Measures for the Administration of Bank Card Business by the People's Bank of China (Yinfa [1999] 17), issued on 27 January 1999;
  • Circular of the People's Bank of China on Promulgation of Opinions on Implementation of Joint Work in Bank Card Interoperability in 2001 (Yinfa [2001] 37) issued on 19 February 2001;
  • Circular on Uniform Use of CUP Logo and its Holographic Label for Anti-counterfeiting by the People's Bank of China (Yinfa, [2001] 57), issued on 13 March 2001;
  • Notice of Circulating the Bank Card Connection Business Standard by the People's Bank of China (Yinfa [2001] 76), issued 29 March 2001, including but not limited to the Appendix, Business Practices for the Interoperable Service of Bank Cards
  • Opinions on Bank Card Interoperability Related Work in 2002 by the People's Bank of China (Yinfa [2002] 94), issued on 5 April 2002;
  • Circular regarding Issues concerning Bank Card Interoperability Related Work by the People's Bank of China (Yinfa [2002] 272), issued on 29 August 2002;
  • Circular on Further Improving Bank Card Interoperability Related Work by the People's Bank of China (Yinfa [2003] 129), issued on 2 July 2003;
  • Announcement of Clearing Arrangements Provided by Banks in relation to Individuals' Deposits, Exchanges, Bank Card and Remittance in RMB in Hong Kong (PBOC Announcement [2003] 16), issued on 19 November 2003;
  • Circular on Regulating the Administration of Foreign Currency Bank Cards by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange Circular (Huifa [2004] 66), issued on 30 June 2004;
  • Announcement of Clearing Arrangements Provided by Banks in relation to Individuals' Deposits, Exchanges, Bank Cards and Remittance in RMB in Macao (PBOC Announcement [2004] 8), issued on 3 August 2004;
  • Notice of the People's Bank of China concerning Relevant Issues on Accepting and Using Renminbi Bank Cards in Border Areas (Yinfa [2004] 219), issued on 21 September 2004;
  • Circular regarding Issues concerning Individual RMB Business Handled by Banks in Mainland China and Banks in Hong Kong and Macao by the People's Bank of China (Yinfa [2004] 254), issued on 28 October 2004;
  • Some Opinions of the People's Bank of China, the National Reform and Development Commission, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Information Industry, the Ministry of Commerce, the Station Administration of Taxation, China Banking Regulatory Commission and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Promoting the Development of Bank Card Industry Some Opinions of the People's Bank of China, the National Reform and Development Commission, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Information Industry, the Ministry of Commerce, the Station Administration of Taxation, China Banking Regulatory Commission and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on Promoting the Development of Bank Card Industry (Yinfa [2005] 103), issued 24 April 2005;
  • Guiding Opinions of the People's Bank of China on Regulating and Promoting the Development of Bank Card Acceptance Market (Yinfa [2005] 153), issued on 16 June 2005;
  • Notice of the People's Bank of China on the Relevant Issues concerning Strengthening the Administration of Oversea Business Acceptance of Bank Cards (Yinfa [2007] 273), issued on 6 August 2007;
  • Notice of the China Banking Regulatory Commission on the Issues Concerning Wholly Foreign-funded and Chinese-foreign Equity Joint Banks in Conducting the Bank Card Business (Yin Jian Fa [2007] 49), issued 6 June 2007;
  • Notice of the People's Bank of China, the China Banking Regulatory Commission, the Ministry of Public Security and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce on Strengthening the Safety Management of Bank Cards and Preventing and Combating Bank Card Crimes (Yinfa [2009] 142), issued 27 April 2009;
  • The Opinions of the Standing Office of the People's Bank of China on the Circular on Strengthening the Safety Management of Bankcards and Preventing and Fighting Crimes in Bank Cards by the People's Bank of China, the China Banking Regulatory Commission, the Ministry of Public Security and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (Yinfa [2009] 149), issued 1 August 2009;
  • Notice of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on the Management of Foreign Currency Bank Cards [2010] 53, issued 11 October 2010; and
  • The “business specifications” and “technical standards” that are identified in the instruments above, including in Document No. 17, Document No. 57, Document No. 129, and Document No. 49;
  • As well as any amendments, or any related implementing measures, as of the date of the panel request.

Public Comment: Requirements for Submissions

Interested persons are invited to submit written comments concerning the issues raised in this dispute. Persons may submit public comments electronically to http://www.regulations.gov, docket number USTR-2010-0026. If you are unable to provide submissions by http://www.regulations.gov, please contact Sandy McKinzy at (202) 395-9483 to arrange for an alternative method of transmission.

To submit comments via www.regulations.gov, enter docket number USTR-2010-0026 on the home page and click “search”. The site will provide a search-results page listing all documents associated with this docket. Find a reference to this notice by selecting “Notice” under “Document Type” on the left side of the search-results page, and click on the link entitled “Submit a Comment.” (For further information on using the http://www.regulations.gov Web site, please consult the resources provided on the Web site by clicking on “How to Use This Site” on the left side of the home page.)

The www.regulations.gov site provides the option of providing comments by filling in a “Type Comment and Upload File” field, or by attaching a document. It is expected that most comments will be provided in an attached document. If a document is attached, it is sufficient to type “See attached” in the “Type Comment and Upload File” field.

A person requesting that information contained in a comment submitted by that person be treated as confidential business information must certify that such information is business confidential and would not customarily be released to the public by the submitter. Confidential business information must be clearly designated as such and the submission must be marked “BUSINESS CONFIDENTIAL” at Start Printed Page 12403the top and bottom of the cover page and each succeeding page. Any comment containing business confidential information must be submitted by fax to Sandy McKinzy at (202) 395-3640. A non-confidential summary of the confidential information must be submitted to http://www.regulations.gov. The non-confidential summary will be placed in the docket and open to public inspection.

Information or advice contained in a comment submitted, other than business confidential information, may be determined by USTR to be confidential in accordance with section 135(g)(2) of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2155(g)(2)). If the submitter believes that information or advice may qualify as such, the submitter—

(1) Must clearly so designate the information or advice;

(2) Must clearly mark the material as “SUBMITTED IN CONFIDENCE” at the top and bottom of the cover page and each succeeding page; and

(3) Must provide a non-confidential summary of the information or advice.

Any comment containing confidential information must be submitted by fax to Sandy McKinzy at (202) 395-3640. A non-confidential summary of the confidential information must be submitted to http://www.regulations.gov. The non-confidential summary will be placed in the docket and open to public inspection.

Pursuant to section 127(e) of the URAA (19 U.S.C. 3537(e)), USTR will maintain a docket on this dispute settlement proceeding accessible to the public. The public file will include non-confidential comments received by USTR from the public with respect to the dispute. If a dispute settlement panel is convened or in the event of an appeal from such a panel, the U.S. submissions, any non-confidential submissions, or non-confidential summaries of submissions, received from other participants in the dispute, will be made available to the public on USTR's Web site at www.ustr.gov, and the report of the panel, and, if applicable, the report of the Appellate Body, will be available on the Web site of the World Trade Organization, http://www.wto.org. Comments open to public inspection may be viewed on the http://www.regulations.gov Web site.

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Bradford Ward,

Acting Assistant United States Trade Representative for Monitoring and Enforcement.

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[FR Doc. 2011-5121 Filed 3-4-11; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3190-W1-P