US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez yesterday issued a stern warning against copyright infringement in China as he began a visit amid worsening tensions over soaring exports of Chinese textiles flooding foreign markets.
"We can have a dispute about textile but do not believe that [intellectual property rights] are negotiable," said Gutierrez, who spoke at an American Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Beijing. "One is a contractual matter and the other is a crime and needs to be treated as such."
His visit comes after Beijing this week revoked tariffs meant to slow the growth of textile exports and accused the US and Europe of violating free-trade principles by imposing import controls.
Gutierrez was to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Bo Xilai (
Gutierrez said last week that he planned to press the Chinese government to crack down on the rampant piracy of movies, music and video games.
The US Chamber of Commerce has estimated US companies lose more than US$200 billion in China each year because of counterfeiting of everything from designer dresses to DVDs.
"Intellectual property rights are not up for negotiation, and frankly abuse of intellectual property rights is not acceptable," Gutierrez told businessmen on his first visit to Beijing as commerce chief.
US music, movie and software industry groups estimate they lose between US$2.5 billion to US$3.8 billion annually in China through sales of pirated copies.
"Intellectual property rights violations are a crime and we don't believe we should be negotiating crimes with our trading partners," Gutierrez said. "We need some help here, and if there's one thing I'm asking the Chinese government for, it is help, because we are both going to be at risk."
Chinese film producers, too, say that rampant piracy makes it nearly impossible to make money out of Chinese movies.
WILLING TO NEGOTIATE
In contrast to the hard line over intellectual property, Gutierrez said Washington was willing to negotiate with Beijing in a growing row over China's surging textile exports.
US imports of clothing from China have risen dramatically since Jan. 1, when a decades-old system of quotas on poor countries' textile exports expired.
The flood of cheap clothes has given ammunition to critics who say China is unfairly holding down the value of the yuan in order to give its exporters a competitive edge.
Gutierrez did not comment on the currency, which has been pegged near 8.3 to the greenback for a decade.
But Bo yesterday warned Washington not to link the two issues.
"If the Chinese economic circle has such a feeling that other countries are using the textile issue as an excuse to force China to make some adjustment to the value of its currency, then it can make the whole situation even more complicated," Bo said through an interpreter in Cheju, South Korea.