Amid rising tensions with Beijing, U.S. trade officials on Monday said they would bring two complaints to the World Trade Organization, both stemming from longstanding complaints about China’s lack of enforcement of copyrights and trademarks on books, music, videos and movies.
“Piracy and counterfeiting levels in China remain unacceptably high,” said U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.
The United States will ask the Geneva, Switzerland-based WTO to begin so-called dispute-settlement consultations with China, the first step in bringing a WTO complaint. If U.S. and Chinese officials, with the help of the WTO, can’t resolve the dispute within 60 days, the case may be referred to a dispute-settlement panel.
One U.S. complaint charges that China has failed to make needed changes to its legal framework to ensure a sufficient crackdown on piracy. The other complaint charges that China has failed to meet its WTO obligations to remove barriers to trade in books, music, videos and movies.
The action comes after years of complaints from U.S. firms that China has been lax in enforcing intellectual property rights. Schwab’s news conference featured a table piled with counterfeit items — including DVDs, books, CDs and lighters — that trade officials said were obtained in China.
Schwab praised Chinese officials for taking steps aimed at curbing piracy, but said efforts to change certain Chinese laws and enforcement thresholds haven’t gone far enough.