The European Union warned Monday that it is getting closer to taking China to the World Trade Organization over intellectual property protection and piracy issues.
On a visit to Beijing, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said that Europe is running out of patience over China’s poor enforcement of IP rights.
“The EU has so far held back from taking China to the WTO, but it is hard to see for how much longer,” Mandelson said.
Mandelson took a markedly harder line than on a similar visit to Beijing a year ago, when he said that Europe has preferred dialogue and cooperation.
The commissioner acknowledged that China is moving in the right direction, but far too slowly.
“We have accepted that IPR is indeed a complex issue, and China’s commercial culture and legal system need time to absorb change. We have been constructive and we have been patient, but the return we have received on that patience has frankly been too low,” Mandelson said.
“We have yet to see the concrete results that we expected from the new priority that has been given to IPR by the Chinese authorities. The world is changing too fast to wait longer.
“On recent evidence,” Mandelson declared, “Europe’s music recording business is being destroyed in China without even getting off the ground.”
The U.S. initiated a formal complaint against China over IP and market-access restrictions earlier this year.
Chinese response to Mandelson’s complaints on the IP issue were largely overshadowed by a furious row the commissioner and Chinese Deputy Premier Wu Yi hadover the safety of Chinese food and manufactured goods. In an angry exchange, Wu said she was “extremely dissatisfied” with Mandelson’s comments and suggested that EU importers are using quality issues as a cover for protectionism.
The angry words, however, came on a day when EU firms signed export deals for $30 billion in aircraft and nuclear installations.