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U.S. Takes Chinese Trade Complaints to WTO
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U.S. Takes Chinese Trade Complaints to WTO

Economy

U.S. Takes Chinese Trade Complaints to WTO
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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris. The Bush admininstration is filing two major trade cases against China, both dealing with movies and music. The first argues that China isn't doing enough to prosecute people who violate copyrights of US-made entertainment products. The other says China blocks those same American movies and music from being sold legally. NPR's Adam Davidson reports that both cases are going before the World Trade Organization.

ADAM DAVIDSON: It has been a dramatic few weeks for US-China economic relations. For years, the Bush administration dealt with most contentious issues through quiet, behind-the-scenes negotiation. But lately, it seems, the disputes are moving out into the open. Tomorrow, the US will formally sue China in World Trade court.

ROBERT MERGES: I wouldn't say this was a knee-jerk reaction are anything spontaneous. These kinds of decisions are formulated, and they take a long time.

DAVIDSON: Robert Merges teaches intellectual property law at Berkeley. He says you can buy a pirated DVD of just about any popular American movie in any Chinese city or town. For years now, movie studios, record companies, book publishers and US government trade officials have been meeting regularly to figure out how best to convince the Chinese government to get those pirated copies off the street. Until today, the US strategy was - for the most part - gentle encouragement, helping China write laws that enforce intellectual property, training Chinese police on how to spot counterfeit goods. The idea was that China needs to learn how fight piracy.

MERGES: But I think a lot of these companies are saying it's not happening fast enough, and, you know, we're basically tired of being put off.

DAVIDSON: Merges says in the US, entertainment companies, the White House and Congress are all more or less united. They all want 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. But in China, things are more complicated. Some in the central government believe that in the long run, piracy will hurt Chinese economic growth. They want to fight it. But it's hard for the central government to convince the mayors and police chiefs in towns and cities that they need to shut down that shop on Main Street owned by their cousin, or that factory that produces pirated movies and employs a hundred local people.

MERGES: I don't think any local mayor likes to go and say, well, we got a fax from the central government, and we got to shut you down. It never plays very well at the local level.

DAVIDSON: Merges says today's WTO lawsuit shows the US has run out of patience, although the suit won't bring instant gratification. These WTO cases typically take many years to resolve. Adam Davidson, NPR News.

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