* China downplays significance of July WTO ruling
* US estimates decision could create 6,000 U.S. jobs
By Tom Miles and Doug Palmer
GENEVA/WASHINGTON, Aug 31 The United States
welcomed China's decision on Friday not to appeal a trade panel
ruling that Beijing discriminated against U.S. bank card
suppliers such as Mastercard Inc and Visa Inc in
favor of a state-owned enterprise, China UnionPay.
"Fair and open financial services markets are critical to
facilitating global trade," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk
said in a statement, noting that China now had 30 days to say
how it would comply with the World Trade Organization's July 16
The U.S. case accused China of imposing a series of measures
dating back to 2001 that discriminated against foreign suppliers
of electronic payment systems that allow consumers to make
purchases using credit, debit, prepaid and other payment cards.
More than $1 trillion worth of electronic payment card
transactions are processed in China each year, making it a
hugely attractive market for U.S. electronic payment services
firms such as Visa and MasterCard.
"The WTO panel agreed that China's pervasive and
discriminatory practices are unfair to American suppliers of
electronic payment services and discriminate at each stage of a
payment card transaction," Kirk said.
"The message to the Government of China is that those
practices must end," Kirk said.
As many as 6,000 jobs could be gained from increased access
to China's electronic payments market, Kirk's office said.
China had until Friday to notify the WTO whether it intended
to appeal the July decision.
In a statement, Beijing played down the significance of the
panel's ruling, even though the United States heralded it as a
major victory in its effort to open China's financial services
sector to more foreign competition.
"In fact, China's electronic payments market is already very
open," China's Commerce Ministry said. "The panel's decision
rejected the U.S. charges that UnionPay was the only service
provider, and affirmed that (China's policy) does not prevent
foreign service providers from entering China's market."
Although the July ruling found that China UnionPay (CUP) had
a monopoly on yuan payment cards issued and used in China, it
rejected the U.S. claim that CUP was an "across-the-board
monopoly supplier" for all transactions denominated in yuan.
A U.S. diplomat, according to a transcript that did not
identify individuals by name, told the WTO's Dispute Settlement
Body the United States was disappointed the ruling had stopped
short of branding CUP as a "monopoly or exclusive supplier".
China's representative at the meeting said that claim had
been the centerpiece of the U.S. case, and China commended the
dispute panel for rejecting it.
However, despite China's decision not to appeal, the Chinese
official also said that the ruling was not entirely free from
error, and China was "troubled" by parts of it.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry, in its statement, said China
believed "cooperation and competition" between domestic and
foreign companies would help develop its payments market.
"China will continue to push forward with reform and opening
up and international cooperation in the electronic payments
market," the ministry said.