By  on April 11, 2007

WASHINGTON — China on Tuesday rebuked the Bush administration for its toughened stance on intellectual property rights and piracy of goods.

"It's not a sensible move for the U.S. government to file such complaints," said Tian Lipu, commissioner of the Intellectual Property Office, according to the official Chinese news service. "To do a better job in combating piracy, we need dialogue and cooperation, not confrontation and condemnation."

The two cases filed by the U.S. with the World Trade Organization focus on Chinese legal protocols intended to protect copyrights and trademarks and on barriers to trade in movies, books, music and videos.

One of the key issues involves the number of fakes required before a counterfeiter risks jail time in China. The government has lowered the threshold to 500 from 1,000, but U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said on Monday that number still provided a "safe harbor for the pirates."

The U.S. move to pursue the cases with the WTO comes as "China is forging ahead with its IPR protection efforts," Tian said.

A spokesman at the Ministry of Commerce said the U.S. action "will seriously undermine the cooperative relations the two nations have established in the field and will adversely affect bilateral economic and trade ties."

But the U.S. sees the action as a natural part of a growing trade relationship.

"The WTO exists to assist when bilateral dialogue between members runs its course," a spokesman for the USTR said. "The U.S. is simply using the WTO mechanisms to encourage China to meet its WTO commitments to enforce IPR."

The Bush administration, which is fighting criticism that its policies have led to a trade deficit of $232.5 billion with China, filed a similar WTO case in February on illegal subsidies and also said it would accept countervailing duty cases against China.

The White House has tried to get China to change currency polices that many experts argue restrain the value of the yuan. The U.S. also is preparing for high-level economic meetings between the two countries next month.

The president's trade promotion authority, which allows for an up or down vote on trade bills with no Congressional amendment, is to expire at the end of June and could be the motivation for filing the WTO cases."I think they're walking a fine line here," Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said of the administration. "If they do too many things against China, they're going to sink the prospect for much happening productive at the Strategic Economic Dialogue in May. If they don't do enough, their chances of getting trade promotion authority renewed in Congress is vanishingly small."

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