US Threatens WTO Action Against China
IPR-based case could be filed within the next few months
WASHINGTON, DC - 06/10/06 - The US could bring a World Trade Organization case against China in the next few months if Beijing does not respond to concerns Washington has raised about its lack of protection of intellectual property rights.
The threat was voiced by Assistant US Trade Representative Tim Stratford in comments earlier this week to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
According to Stratford, Bush Administration discussions of a case against China for copyright piracy are at a "very advanced stage," adding "I think it's very possible the United States could take action at the WTO in coming months if particular concerns aren't resolved."
Washington, he said, "is laying the groundwork for a case by first formally raising our concerns to them on a bilateral basis, giving them a chance to react, to address the problem."
After the hearing, Stratford told reporters that he did not want to discuss details of the specific piracy issues that the US has raised with Beijing.
"But to have a successful case the United States must have good evidence that China is violating very specific commitments it has made to protect intellectual property rights," he said.
Widespread piracy and counterfeiting in China of US-made products ranging from movies and music to pharmaceuticals and auto safety glass arouses as much anger on Capitol Hill as Beijing's currency policy, which lawmakers believe is tilted to give Chinese exporters an unfair advantage.
At the hearing, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) called the Office of the US Trade Representative "a paper tiger" because it has not brought more WTO cases against Beijing.
Earlier this year, the US, the European Union, and Canada took the first step toward a WTO case against China for tariff policies that they said discriminate against foreign auto parts suppliers.
WTO rules require trading partners to try to resolve disputes through consultations for 60 days before formally requesting a dispute settlement panel.
The 60-day consultation period ended on May 29 for the complaint brought by the US and the EU, and will expire next week for Canada. The three trading partners are widely expected to ask for a panel at that point.
Stratford did confirm that the US hasn't been able to resolve the dispute through consultations, but declined to say when Washington would take the next step in the matter.
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