US takes Beijing to WTO again over piracy row

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2007, 12:00am
 

The United States has taken the mainland's alleged failure to protect intellectual property rights to the World Trade Organisation, increasing trade tensions between the two countries.


The US, the mainland's second-largest trade partner after the European Union, requested the WTO set up a dispute settlement panel after it accused Beijing of not providing a legal regime for protecting and enforcing copyrights and trademarks on products ranging from movies and home videos to publications.


It is the third complaint Washington has filed against Beijing in less than a year as tensions accelerate over the mainland's surging trade surplus and alleged use of a weak yuan to boost its economy.


Yi Xintian, a spokesman for the State Intellectual Property Office, yesterday said Beijing would fight the allegation to 'to the very end'.


The Bush administration is seeking to pacify mounting protectionist calls in the US Congress, which has blamed the nation's unemployment problem on a flood of what it called 'artificially cheap' Chinese imports.


The mainland's trade surplus last month jumped an annualised 67 per cent to US$24.35 billion, the second-highest level on record.


Vice-Premier Wu Yi deflected requests by US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, in Beijing for talks two weeks ago, for faster yuan appreciation and more drastic economic reforms.


Ms Wu said in May that the complaints to the WTO would have a 'serious impact' on the co-operative framework between the two countries to resolve intellectual property issues and ignored Beijing's commitment to combating such violations.


The State Intellectual Property Office yesterday said on its website Beijing had stepped up investigations into copyright offences, with the number of cases rising 0.43 per cent to 18,973 and penalties increasing 11.9 per cent to 162 million yuan in the first six months of this year.


Dayton Carpenter, the president of DC Consulting, said the mainland could have done much more in regulating trademarks, patents and copyrights. 'With the 2008 Olympics logo, [Beijing] is very strict in protecting the trademark,' he said. 'But it doesn't do it across the board.'


There are also disputes over who the copycats are. Simon Shi Kai-biu, whose Sun Motor International makes HK$600 million worth of micromotors annually for printers, cars and home appliances and exports them to the US and Europe, said a growing number of US firms were copying mainland products.


Mr Shi said many US firms copied all but one or two functions of an electrical appliance, put their logo on the product and sold it at a 30 per cent or 40 per cent discount. This discouraged Chinese firms from developing their own brands and products.


Burning issue


The percentage jump in the mainland's trade surplus with the US last month 67%


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