Bo Xilai

Plea for understanding on war against piracy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2006, 12:00am

Minister says Beijing understands the need for crackdown, and pledges to fight on

Commerce Minister Bo Xilai yesterday pleaded for Washington's understanding of Beijing's determination and efforts in cracking down on rampant infringement of intellectual property rights ahead of President Hu Jintao's US visit next week.

In an apparent attempt to defuse US anger over Beijing's record in protecting intellectual property rights, Mr Bo renewed vows to step up the fight against pirated products. 'China's IPR protection is not about saving face, but for the promotion of our economic growth,' he said.

'China's rapid economic development over the past years has been achieved on the basis of our continuous efforts to strengthen IPR protection.'

Mr Bo pledged the authorities would press on with their battle against counterfeiting despite the impact that might have on unemployment, a reference to the closure of some retail markets notorious for selling fake products.

'It is not an easy decision [for local authorities to shut down those markets] because it affects many people's employment. But even if it could have a negative impact on employment, the Chinese government is still determined to protect intellectual property rights,' he said.

Mr Bo admitted there was a gap between Beijing's protection of intellectual property rights and US expectations, citing an underdeveloped education system and low incomes.

'China and the US need consultations because our two countries are vastly different. Besides, we need to take the issue of employment and other social factors into consideration when dealing with the infringement problem,' he said.

Mr Bo played down media reports about the likelihood of Beijing making significant concessions on IPR protection to ease mounting criticism ahead of Mr Hu's visit to the US.

'I don't think the IPR issue is an issue about negotiations,' he said. 'Protecting intellectual property is China's own initiative and in the interest of our development. It is not because we are subject to certain exterior pressure or try to keep a certain profile.'

He noted the issue of intellectual property rights protection had been a key topic at an ongoing annual meeting of the Sino-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in Washington, attended by Vice-Premier Wu Yi .

Aware of criticism from foreign governments and business over China's poor record, he said mainland hi-tech companies had also called for stronger protection of intellectual property rights.

Mr Bo dismissed accusations that rampant piracy had contributed to the huge trade imbalance between China and the US as 'an exaggeration of the importance of IPR on trade'.

'It is the US restrictions on the export of hi-tech products to China, rather than IPR issues, that have affected the efforts to narrow the trade gap between the two countries,' he said.

'Accusations about China's IPR protection by many people in economic and political circles in other countries are an overstatement based on off-the-top-of-the-head assumptions.'