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US Commerce Chief Calls for Tougher Fight Against Piracy

U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans has ended a three-day visit to China after calling on leaders in Beijing to do more to protect intellectual property rights. The visit came as U.S. concerns mount over the billions of dollars lost because of cheap Chinese knock-offs of American brand-name products.

After a meeting with Vice Premier Wu Yi and other officials Thursday to discuss intellectual property rights, U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans praised China for a commitment it made last year to better enforce its copyright laws.

However, Mr. Evans says results remain to be seen. "The process of getting the correct enforcement structure in place is important and hopefully will lead to the kinds of results that we think are acceptable," he says. "And, to begin with, the kind of results that are acceptable are to reverse the trend of the dramatically growing counterfeiting and piracy and stealing that is taking place."

A few hundred meters away from where Mr. Evans was speaking, street vendors peddle fake copies of yet-to-be released Hollywood movies at a dollar apiece, as police officers look on. U.S. companies say illegal copying and trafficking of not only movies, but also drugs, brand-name clothing, and car parts costs them billions of dollars each year.

Coinciding with the Commerce Secretary's visit, the Chinese government publicized a number of anti-piracy campaigns. The National Copyright Administration on Thursday said authorities had sentenced three men to prison in connection with a plan to manufacture fake Microsoft software. The agency has said it is determined to stamp out the piracy of compact discs and DVDs this year.

Aside from the intellectual property issue, many in the United States are concerned about China's rising trade surplus. The pro-labor Economic Policy Institute in Washington says the U.S. trade deficit with China cost one-point-five million American jobs over the past 15 years.

Fears of rising unemployment because of Chinese competition have risen with the expiration this month of world textile quotas that will allow China to sell even more textiles to the United States. China sought to quell concerns by imposing a new tax on textile exports, but Secretary Evans on Thursday said he does not think the tax will reduce the flow of goods.

"I don't want to discount these steps," Mr. Evans says. "I just don't think the steps of putting a few cents tax on exports or a few of the other steps are going to have a meaningful kind of impact to the kind of ultimate structure of the textile industry in the world because the economic forces are basically too powerful."

U.S. textile manufacturers are lobbying the Bush administration to limit the growth of Chinese textile imports to less than eight percent. The Commerce Department is to rule on the matter next month.