updated 9/22/2009 1:57:33 PM ET 2009-09-22T17:57:33

China appealed Tuesday a United States win in a trade dispute over restrictions on the sale of U.S. music, films and books in the Asian country.

The World Trade Organization announced the appeal in a statement to its members. Chinese officials said it was filed Tuesday, but documents were not immediately made public.

The ruling last month came down decisively against Beijing’s policy of forcing American media producers to route their business through state-owned companies.

The country’s restrictions have been a key gripe of Western exporters, who complain that China’s rapid rise as a trade juggernaut has been aided by unfair policies that boost sales of Chinese goods abroad while limiting the amount of foreign products entering the Chinese market.

The WTO decision in August backed a number of complaints of trade associations representing record labels such as EMI and Sony Music Entertainment; publishers including McGraw Hill and Simon & Schuster; and, to a lesser extent, the major Hollywood studios of Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, Universal and 20th Century Fox.

The panel made no finding that implies it is illegal for Beijing to review foreign goods for objectionable content. But it said China’s methods were invariably breaking the rules, with the WTO backing the U.S. on almost every key point.

The three-member panel rejected, however, a U.S. argument that burdensome censorship of American music was hampering sales in China. Washington also suffered a setback on cinema rights as it failed to prove that China was illegally restricting the distribution of films in movie theaters to two state-owned companies.

Still, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk called the decision a “clear win” for American companies seeking more open trade in China.

The WTO cannot force compliance, but it can authorize countries harmed by illegal trade practices — in this case, the United States — to set higher tariffs and other measures against those failing to adhere to the rules — in this case, China.

The WTO’s appellate body will likely issue its ruling early next year.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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