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Lawmakers get tough on Russian piracy

Quartet threaten to block WTO entry

A bipartisan quartet of influential lawmakers threatened to block Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization if the Bush administration fails to secure definitive commitments from Moscow to improve intellectual property rights protection.

In a letter sent Thursday to the White House, which has been weighing Russia’s admission into the WTO, Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Reps. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) underscored the country’s documented poor record on protection of intellectual property rights and also questioned its commitment to science-based standards for agricultural trade policies.

“Every prospective WTO member, however, must demonstrate its willingness, ability and commitment to abide by WTO rules. Unfortunately, Russia has not yet done so,” they wrote.

Entry into WTO would first require Congress to confer “Permanent Normal Trade Relations” status on Russia. As leaders of committees that would make that determination, the lawmakers said, “Until Russia addresses these critical issues in a meaningful way, we cannot support granting PNTR to Russia.”

Citing “egregious and costly violations of copyright, patent and trademark protections” in Russia as well as “inadequate enforcement action by Russian authorities,” the congressmen cautioned against taking on faith just promises to do better.

“Now, the Russian government is considering a major step backwards,” they continued. “Russia is set to annul all of its existing IPR laws and make IPR violators subject to civil rather than criminal penalties. It would also put Russia out of compliance with international and bilateral commitments to protect intellectual property rights.”

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