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Not only is Hollywood having to deal with a writers’ strike, now China has halted the import of its films, according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who is in China for the biannual bilateral dialogue talks. The Hollywood trade rag Variety reports that the ban will last for 3 months.

Why isn’t clear, and there has been no comment from Chinese officials, even to confirm or deny the ban.. China imposes an import quota of 20 foreign films a year. Foreign films account for nearly half of China’s box-office revenues, which topped $350 million in 2006. (Global box office receipts are $40 billion by way of comparison.)

This year’s quota may just have been filled, as has happened in the past, Gutierrez says. But it may also be tit for tat retaliation against the U.S. for taking China to the World Trade Organization over intellectual property piracy, including of Hollywood films.

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