U.S. Takes Chinese Trade Complaints to WTO

Since negotiations with China haven't worked, the United States is taking its copyright and anti-piracy concerns to the World Trade Organization, the Bush administration's trade representative says.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab told reporters the United States has filed two separate cases against China. One argues that China lacks an adequate legal structure to enforce copyrights and trademarks. The other challenges China's barriers to foreign books, music and movies in its domestic market.

It has been a dramatic few weeks for U.S.-Chinese economic relations. For the past few years, the Bush administration has dealt with most contentious issues through quiet, behind-the-scenes negotiation. But lately, it seems that every dispute is out in the open. On Monday, the dispute got even hotter as the United States formally sued China in world trade court.

American companies, industry groups, the White House and Congress are united on the issue, says Robert Merges, who teaches intellectual property law at the University of California-Berkeley. The unity, he said, stems from a desire to stop Chinese piracy. And they want China to stop making it difficult for American companies to sell legal versions of their movies and music.

On China's side of the issue, things are more complicated. Some in the central government believe piracy hurts Chinese economic growth, and they want to fight it.

But it's hard for China's central government to convince mayors and police chiefs in towns and cities that they need to shut down shops owned by a resident, or a factory producing pirated movies that employs 100 local people.

Merges says the WTO lawsuit shows the United States has run out of patience. But they will need more patience — these cases typically take many years to resolve.

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