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US Criticizes China on Copyright Violations - 2003-09-12

A senior U.S. trade official says China is not doing enough to combat piracy.

The key message from U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce William Lash, following a series of meetings with Chinese trade and law enforcement officials, is that China must stiffen sentences for those involved in what he called "a vast enterprise of copyright violators."

"When you have a level of piracy like China's of American goods, in this market alone ranging from $20 to $25 billion a year, obviously not much is being done to truly deter piracy," he said.

Mr. Lash is in China as part of a U.S. mission to assess China's compliance with its World Trade Organization obligations two years after it joined the group.

He says China has come a long way in putting laws on the books, but there is no evidence that enough sentences are being handed out. That, he says, is keeping the country from meeting its WTO requirements on eliminating its counterfeit trade.

Among other goods, China produces billions of dollars worth of fake CDs, DVDs and other entertainment products, resulting in huge losses for mainly U.S. companies.

But U.S. officials also worry that many of the products being counterfeited in China are life-threatening, such as fake airplane and auto parts, and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

The U.S. assistant secretary of commerce says his team did not come to Beijing to threaten Chinese leaders over WTO compliance issues. He said the Bush administration wants to use a more constructive approach for now.

"It's not simply a question of our coming in and saying: 'Here's what China must do by date X.' We come and say: 'Here are obligations that you know are coming up. Are you ready? How can we assist you to get this solved?'" said Mr. Lash.

Mr. Lash also brought up the issue of growing international calls for China to relax controls on its currency.

Many in the United States accuse China of keeping the value of its currency artificially low, arguing that this contributes to a growing trade imbalance between the two countries.

The issue is likely to come up again when U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans visits China next month.