The US on Friday placed Russia on its list of countries with the worst records of preventing copyright theft for the 13th straight year, just days after the two nations agreed to intensify talks on Moscow’s bid to join the WTO.
The US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office also put China on its “priority watch list” for the sixth consecutive year and Canada for the second consecutive year. The list carries no threat of sanctions, but aims to shame governments into cracking down on piracy and updating their copyright laws.
“Intellectual property theft in overseas markets is an export killer for American businesses and a job killer for American workers here at home,” US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.
Algeria, Argentina, Chile, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and Venezuela rounded out the priority watch list.
All the listed countries will be “the subject of particularly intense engagement through bilateral discussion during the coming year,” USTR said.
The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which represents US copyright industry groups, has estimated that US trade losses because of piracy in more than three dozen countries surpassed US$15.8 billion last year.
That included more than US$3.5 billion in China, US$1.9 billion in Russia, US$1.5 billion in India, US$1.1 billion in Italy, US$978 million in Brazil and US$710 million in Canada.
“With the US and many other economies working to recover from the global fiscal crisis, our government needs to redouble its efforts to stem massive global theft of US copyrighted works, whether in physical forms or on the Internet,” IIPA president Eric Smith said in a statement.
Stan McCoy, assistant US trade representative for intellectual property and innovation, said Russia still needed to fulfill many of the commitments it made in 2006 to bolster enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR).
“Implementation of this bilateral agreement is important in our consideration of the way forward on Russia’s WTO accession,” McCoy said, adding that Moscow has not given a timeframe for enacting the reforms.
In addition to China’s high piracy rates, the US is “seriously concerned about China’s implementation of ‘indigenous innovation’ policies that may unfairly disadvantage US IPR holders,” Kirk said.
US manufacturers, computer technology and other business groups have been alarmed about a Chinese policy that requires companies to develop their intellectual property in China if they want to qualify for preferences under that country’s government procurement program.
McCoy said he expected the issue to be raised at the upcoming US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting in Beijing late next month.
Canada is on the priority watch list for a second year because it still has not passed promised legislation to boost protection of IPR.
“Even though Canada is a world leader in its rate of Internet usage and online file-sharing, Canada’s IPR regime has not kept pace with changing technology,” McCoy said.
The USTR said on Friday that although Taiwan is no longer on the USTR Special 301 watch list, that did not mean there was no dispute between Taipei and Washington on the issue of IPR protection.
The US will continue to talk with Taiwan on the issue, the office said.
Since Taiwan was first placed on the Special 301 watch list in 1989, its name has usually remained there.
Last year, it was left off the list for the first time in more than a decade and the exclusion continued in this year’s report.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s representative office in the US said it was delighted to hear that Taiwan had been left off the watch list.
Additional reporting by Staff Writer, with CNA
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