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American Shipper

U.S. Chamber praises Chinese efforts on eve of IPR conference

U.S. Chamber praises Chinese efforts on eve of IPR conference

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a major conference in Beijing next week to address the issue of global counterfeiting and protection of intellectual property rights.

   The Chinese government’s trade promotion arm is co-hosting the three-day event, which includes participation by government and business officials from China, Hong Kong, the European Union, Japan, India, Singapore and Korea.

   The Global Forum on Intellectual Property Protection and Innovation is touted by the Chamber as a way to exchange ideas for combating copycat sales and other brand theft that is costing businesses and governments around the world an estimated $750 billion per year.

   China has recently made good progress in trying to clamp down on production of knock-offs and piracy by factories selling overruns of legitimate goods on their own, Chamber President Tom Donahue said in a briefing with reporters in Washington before departing for China.

   The biggest reason for China’s about-face on counterfeiting is pressure from Chinese companies and investors who now have matured to the point that they are worried about lost revenue from theft of their own intellectual property, he said.

   “I’ve seen more progress in China than in many other places” around the world “because they think it’s a better way to attract foreign direct investment, joint ventures, sharing of technology and to be considered a good global partner for lots of activities,” Donahue said.

   Critics of China’s trade polices claim that China is benefiting from counterfeit trade, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative was prepared last fall to initiate a complaint to the World Trade Organization to spur more government action.

   The Chamber wants to work with Chinese officials to clear up the problem as long as they are moving in the right direction.

   “I think the place where we would cross the Rubicon, so to speak, and really push for filing of a major complaint is if we saw progress start to move the other way, if we saw a lack of interest by the government and a lack of improvement,” Donahue said.

   The huge U.S. trade deficit with China is a sore point among many lawmakers who claim Chinese subsidies, currency manipulation and other practices are distorting trade and giving Chinese companies an unfair advantage. Several proposals on Capitol Hill would place penalties on imports from China to force the government to change trade laws.

   Donahue said the Chamber must assuage Congress that open trade with China will help their constituents.

   “Our objective in dealing with our own Congress is to assure them of expansion of trade, benefit for their constituents and our country and to assure them when progress is not being made that we are prepared to use the provisions of a rules-based system, the WTO, to raise our issue. But our total objective is to enhance, expand and strengthen the U.S.-China trading relationship to the benefit of American citizens.

   “It’s not our objective to punish China. We’re not talking about some grade school child that needs punishing,” Donahue said.

   In addition to co-hosting the forum, Donahue will meet with senior Chinese government officials and business leaders to discuss trade and commercial issues. Following his meetings in Beijing, he will travel to Jiangsu to promote that province’s anticounterfeiting program, and meet with officials in Hong Kong and Japan.

   The meetings in Japan will focus on Japanese help in bringing the Doha round of the WTO negotiations on a global free trade agreement to a conclusion, collaboration on intellectual property rights protection, and deregulation of the domestic market. Of particular interest is the postal privatization effort to make sure the process creates a level playing field for foreign express delivery services to compete, Donahue said.

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