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China to ease access for US movies, Biden says


WASHINGTON -- China has agreed to significantly improve market access for American movies, capping a weeklong visit by China's leader-in-waiting that led to billions of dollars in business deals, Vice President Joe Biden said Friday.

"This agreement with China will make it easier than ever before for U.S. studios and independent filmmakers to reach the fast-growing Chinese audience, supporting thousands of American jobs in and around the film industry," Biden said in a statement obtained by NBC News after Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's whirlwind tour to the United States. "At the same time, Chinese audiences will have access to more of the finest films made anywhere in the world."

"U.S. studios and independent filmmakers cite China as one of their most important world markets, but barriers imposed by China and challenged by the United States in the WTO have artificially reduced the revenue U.S. film producers received from their movies in the Chinese market," said United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk. "This agreement will help to change that, boosting one of America's strongest export sectors in one of our largest export markets."

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Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, left, shows Vice President Joe Biden a chocolate-covered macadamia nut, given to him by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, at the start of a meeting of Chinese and American governors Friday at Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

On a global basis, films and other audiovisual services create a $12 billion trade surplus in the sector for the United States, the White House said.

Last year, Chinese box office revenue was up to $2.1 billion, with much of that from 3D titles.

The agreement allows more American exports to China of 3D, IMAX, and similar enhanced-format movies on favorable commercial terms, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said.

"This is a major step forward in spurring the growth of U.S. exports to China," Chris Dodd, president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), said in a statement.

"It has long been a top priority for the MPAA, and it is tremendous news for the millions of American workers and businesses whose jobs depend on the entertainment industry."

Walt Disney Co. president and CEO Robert Iger said in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter: "China is one of the most populous countries in the world, and this agreement represents a significant opportunity to provide Chinese audiences increased access to our films."

The U.S. movie industry has long complained about China's tight restrictions on the number of foreign films allowed into the country each year, a limit that they say helps fuel demand for pirated DVDs that are widely available in China.

While the quota of 20 foreign films per year remains in place, Beijing granted other concessions that pleased Hollywood.

The deal strengthens the opportunities to distribute films through private enterprises rather than the state film monopoly, and ensures fairer compensation levels for U.S. blockbuster films distributed by Chinese state-owned enterprises, U.S. trade officials said.

The agreement will be reviewed after 5 years to ensure that it is working as envisioned, they said.

NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.

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