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Bush throws down gauntlet on China Wi-Fi standard

WASHINGTON-The Bush administration has officially challenged China’s homegrown Wi-Fi security standard that industry and government leaders claim is at odds with international guidelines and commercially harmful to U.S. companies that make equipment for wireless local area networks.

A letter to Beijing officials raising concerns about China’s Wireless Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure, or WAPI, standard and the need to resolve the dispute before the June 1 implementation of the standard was signed by Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. Trade Representative, according to industry lobbyists who were briefed on the letter’s contents.

The letter, addressed to Vice Premiers Wu Yi and Zeng Peiyan, was delivered Tuesday in Beijing to newly appointed Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai.

“We hope the Chinese will carefully consider the matter and take into account the significance of such high-level U.S. government involvement. Engagement by three top administration officials is rare, if not unprecedented, and should send the strongest possible signal that the U.S. government is taking this matter very seriously,” said Rhett Dawson, president of the Information Technology Council.
Key lawmakers of Congress also have protested China’s plans to adopt the WAPI standard. The high level of U.S. government engagement on the issue reflects the huge stakes in the emerging, multibillion-dollar Wi-Fi market.

U.S. industry fears that if China’s WAPI standard goes into effect June 1, it would prevent foreign manufacturers that are not in compliance from selling wireless systems in China that are based on the widely used international standard, 802.11. In addition, U.S. industry officials said requiring foreign manufacturers to produce one product for China and another for the rest of the world will compromise information technology interoperability and fragment global markets. Such a move, according to U.S. industry, could put high-tech intellectual property rights at risk.

ITIC represents such firms as Accenture, Agilent Technologies, Apple, Canon U.S.A., Cisco, Corning, Dell, Eastman Kodak, eBay, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, IBM, Intel, Lexmark, Microsoft, National Semiconductor, NCR, Oracle, Panasonic, SAP, Sony Electronics, Sun Microsystems, Symbol Technologies, Tektronix, Time Warner, and Unisys.

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