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Lawmakers Urge Action Against China Piracy of US Intellectual Property


In Washington, lawmakers are urging the Bush administration to take action against China for its piracy of U.S. intellectual property.

Chris Israel, coordinator for international intellectual property enforcement at the Commerce Department, says intellectual property theft costs U.S. businesses some $250 billion each year.

At a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Israel said evidence suggests China is responsible for most of that piracy:

"In 2005, the U.S. Customs reported that China was by far the leading source of counterfeit products that were seized at our borders, accounting for 69 percent of all seizures," said Chris Israel.

Israel said China's leaders have expressed a commitment to crackdown on the problem. But he said Beijing needs to back its words with actions. He noted that the Bush administration has threatened to file a case against China at the World Trade Organization unless it takes steps to reduce violations of intellectual property.

But members of the Senate subcommittee expressed frustration that the administration has not yet taken action against China, which acceded to the WTO in December 2001.

Senator Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican, is chairman of the panel:

"I think we have got to do something for the sake of our own nation's economic future and the integrity of our own laws and respect of our own industries," said Gordon Smith. "Not protectionism, but protecting what our nation is frankly best at, and that is new ideas, new products, new commerce that is transforming the world, but if it is stolen, its value is much diminished and our jobs are unfairly compromised."

Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat agreed, saying the administration should set a date for when it plans to take action at the WTO if China does not respond.

"We need a timeframe," said Byron Dorgan. "We need a decision. We need to understand that this country needs to stand up for its economic interests."

The Commerce Department's Chris Israel said the administration is serious about cracking down on the problem.

"We are using every trade tool at our disposal in the WTO, and we consider all options to be on the table," he said.

Israel expressed hope that progress could be made in resolving the dispute at an April meeting in Washington between U.S. and Chinese economic officials, just days before a summit between President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House.