The American Chamber of Commerce in China yesterday called for more transparency and an end to domestic protectionism in the country's telecommunications market. These were among the 222 recommendations made by this year's white paper on United States business in China. '[Present] regulations confuse foreign companies, particularly . . . with the rapid pace of change in the telecoms industry itself. We urge the Ministry of Information Industry to maintain a well-updated Web site, supplemented with a print publication, to provide all former, [present] and forthcoming regulations in a timely manner to domestic and overseas companies,' it said. It called for the purchase of telecoms equipment on the basis of functionality and cost, instead of directives favouring domestic firms, and an end to requirements that foreign firms making wireless communications export a certain proportion of their output and buy local components. On intellectual property rights (IPR), the white paper said violations in trademarks, copyright, software and cyber-squatting were rising, with 139,000 cases in the first half last year, up 30 per cent over the same 1999 period, involving an estimated 4.89 billion yuan (about HK$4.5 billion). 'Anecdotally, foreign trademark owners have reported huge increases in the number of infringements, in some case more than double the number from the previous year . . . penalties are inadequate to effectively deter IPR infringements,' it said. It called for a national law to provide minimum statutory penalties and clarify procedures for seeking criminal prosecutions in all IPR cases and allow foreign and domestic rights holders to seek administrative enforcement at the local, provincial and national levels. On Internet and e-commerce, it said many significant obstacles prevented China's e-commerce from achieving its full potential, with rules and rumours of impending regulations that contradict previous ones not adequate to support its growth. 'China's restrictions on the flow of foreign exchange greatly diminish the ease and efficiency of international transactions for both domestic and foreign industry,' it said. It called for laws to protect and secure online transactions, development of a national system for direct debit payment transfers and a moratorium on taxation of e-commerce. On banking, it called on the government to address inequalities between local and foreign banks, such as the 'unfair monopoly' on forward foreign exchange contracts enjoyed by the Bank of China, which should be opened to all banks, and a requirement made only of foreign banks that the ratio of customer deposits to domestic loans not exceed 40 per cent. 'Foreign banks will not pose an overwhelming competitive threat to local institutions after WTO [World Trade Organisation] entry, as they will inevitably be at a disadvantage in gathering [yuan] deposits,' it said. 'Most foreign banks do not intend to offer consumer or small and medium-sized enterprises financial services at all - the post-WTO environment will likely lead to a limited increase in some products, such as credit cards, and strategic co-operation in others, such as cash management or large syndicated loans,' it said. It called on both governments to liberalise their visa regimes: 'Visa applications by Chinese nationals continue to increase at a rate of 15 per cent a year and resources at US diplomatic facilities have simply not kept pace.'