Forum bids looser China pic policy

Group plans Shanghai free trade zone for films

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HONG KONG -- Asian film industry executives and media policymakers from Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and Macau will gather Monday to unveil a proposal to reform China's strict film import and export rules and increase the outflow of Chinese cultural products to markets overseas.

The forum at the Hong Kong Filmart, which runs through Thursday, was organized by local outfit Salon Films, which is hosting a Chinese delegation headed by China Film Assn. chairman and China Film Foundation president Li Qiankuan and Shanghai Media Group president Li Ruigang and will include officials from China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

The forum will convene to discuss the creation in Shanghai's Wai Gao Qiao free trade zone of a "special cultural administrative region" for the increased import and export of films, Salon chairman Fred Wang told The Hollywood Reporter.

Since China's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2002, Beijing has capped at 20 the number of films allowed to be imported to China and screened theatrically on a revenue-sharing basis. On the flip side, China's carefully monitored industry has produced only a handful of films over the years that have succeeded overseas on a big scale.

The proposed free trade zone in Shanghai's Pudong district would be the result of an agreement signed in September by Salon and city government-backed Shanghai Oriental Huiwen International Cultural Services Trading Co.

"The Chinese government will be using Wai Gao Qiao as a testing ground for its cultural trade policies and strategic reform for import and export of films and other cultural products," Wang said. "Salon is facilitating the policymaking with proposals such as a free market for imported motion pictures from the U.S. within the zone as well as an increase of exported Chinese films to the U.S."

The other part of Monday's forum will be dedicated to the development of the media industry across Asia, with speakers from Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Singapore's Media Development Authority leading the discussion about how better to market Asian cultural products such as films to audiences around the world.

"This is the time for Asia to rise," Wang said, adding that the forum will tackle topics such as film financing, tax structure, tariffs, job opportunities and the development of professional technical personnel and creative exchange.

Added Wang: "We believe that films should not be made behind closed doors; we can't call ourselves the 'Hollywood of the East' and then just compete with other film industries. That's counterproductive. It should be a collaborative process for the whole region."