U.S. vows again to get tough on trade, piracy issues

The Bush administration has vowed to get tough with China regarding trade and intellectual property rights.

After a six-month review of trade relations with the country — a main offender on piracy and restricted markets — U.S. Trade Rep Rob Portman announced that his office will take a harder line than before with the Chinese.

“As a mature trading partner, China should be held accountable for its actions and required to live up to its responsibilities, including opening markets and enforcing intellectual property rights,” Portman said in a statement. “We will use all options available to meet this challenge.”

One option, Portman said, would be to file lawsuits against China with the World Trade Organization — a measure several members of Congress have long said is necessary. The overall strategy is to put China on notice that business as usual is over.

“Despite three consecutive years of growing U.S. exports to China, our bilateral trade relationship with China today lacks equity, durability and balance in the opportunities it provides,” Portman said. “The time has come to readjust our trade policy with respect to China.”

Hollywood has been frustrated in its attempts to gain fair access to Chinese markets, and both the movie and recording industries have claimed hundreds of millions of dollars lost to Chinese bootleggers.

Portman proposed several specific measures, including the following:

  • Beefing up the U.S. trade rep’s enforcement capacity, starting with establishment of a special China task force at USTR;

  • Expanding U.S. trade policy and negotiating capacity in Beijing to pursue priority issues, particularly intellectual-property rights protection,more effectively;

  • Increasing coordination with other trading partners on China trade issues of common interest, such as enforcement of intellectual property rights;

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has criticized the administration for not taking strong enough or even appropriate measures against China on trade, found the review lacking.

“It is amazing that in a comprehensive 29-page report, the trade representative fails to mention the 800-pound gorilla in the room — how China manipulates its currency,” Schumer said in a statement. “This isn’t the first time the administration has sung this tune, but what we await is strong action.”

MPAA chairman Dan Glickman welcomed the review and its proposed measures. “MPAA will continue its efforts in China on behalf of the U.S. movie industry by examining additional options for ensuring China’s commitment to its WTO obligations,” he said. “In addition, the MPAA will continue working with USTR and other officials to expand the Chinese market to provide a more level playing field for the benefit of all filmmakers.”

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