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UPDATE 1-EU nears WTO action vs China financial info rules

(Adds U.S. official’s comment in paragraphs 8-9)

BRUSSELS, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The European Commission has taken a step toward launching action at the World Trade Organisation against China over what Brussels regards as the unfair treatment of financial information providers in China.

The European Union and the United States have previously expressed concern to China over the case and said they might seek litigation at the WTO.

Brussels and Washington object to rules introduced in 2006 that require financial information providers such as Reuters Group RTR.L and Bloomberg to operate in China through Chinese state news agency Xinhua and not directly.

A notice in the European Commission’s official register referred to a proposal by EU trade officials for a request to the WTO for the launch of a dispute settlement procedure.

The proposal, dated Jan. 25, has been put to other Commission departments.

“The Chinese are well aware of our concerns in this area,” said a European Commission official familiar with the situation.

“While no final decision has yet been reached on whether to request WTO consultations, we have started to prepare for such an eventuality should our current approach not yield results soon,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Tim Stratford, assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China, spoke guardedly in Washington about the possibility of the United States bringing a WTO complaint on the issue.

“We have made clear to China that we have concerns in those areas. But we’re considering how to deal with it and we’re in discussions with the Chinese about it. That’s all we can say,” Stratford told reporters after a speech.

EU trade chief Peter Mandelson is due to visit China in late February. A ruling against China at the WTO could eventually lead to the imposition of retaliatory measures on Chinese business interests by the EU or other complainants.

A Chinese government spokesman said earlier Thursday that China had not received any U.S. complaint over Beijing’s rules for foreign providers of financial information. (Reporting by William Schomberg in Brussels and Doug Palmer in Washington; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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