In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced the creation of a “trade enforcement unit” that will be tasked with investigating “unfair trade practices” in other countries, including China.
Saying “it’s not right when another country lets our movies, music and software be pirated,” Obama told a joint session of Congress that the unit will be tasked with inspections “to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders.”
Obama’s reference to the problem of piracy is also a nod to Hollywood. Last week, studio executives were openly critical of the administration after it criticized long-in-the-works anti-piracy legislation pending in Congress. The bills stalled out last week in the face of widespread protest online, with activists charging that the legislation was an overreach.
It was unclear the extent to which the trade enforcement unit would target piracy — or how it will differ from existing initiatives launched by customs officials.
Congressional opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate have proposed an alternative that targets “rogue” sites via the International Trade Commission by choking off monetary support from ad networks and payment processors.