WASHINGTON — The U.S. and China are making progress in the fight against intellectual property theft.

This story first appeared in the December 23, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to provide a technical assistance program to Chinese IP agencies with the aim of strengthening enforcement on counterfeit and digital piracy activities, as the two sides finished a high-level dialogue in Beijing on Friday.

U.S. trade officials said they signed a number of agreements with the Chinese at the close of the two-day U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, ranging from intellectual property enforcement to expanding travel and tourism from China to the U.S.

“The JCCT results build on the progress made during Vice President Biden’s recent visit, as well as positive announcements resulting from China’s Third Plenum on promoting the reform and opening of China’s economy,” said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. “We still face many challenges, but the JCCT offers us a key tool for resolving important trade and investment issues.” Froman attended the meetings in Beijing with U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency signed the memorandum of understanding on intellectual property with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Under the agreement, a technical assistance program will be established to help Chinese agencies strengthen their enforcement and protection of intellectual property rights and adopt and maintain nondiscriminatory policies. The program will provide four workshops and one two- to three-week U.S.-based training program and supplement three other workshops and two additional U.S. study visits that will be coordinated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“The goal of this MOU is to increase the capacity and commitment of Chinese government agencies, courts and legislature to ensuring that IP is adequately protected and enforced,” a USTR fact sheet stated.

China continues to be the number-one source of counterfeit and pirated goods. In fiscal year 2012, U.S. authorities seized $906 million worth of counterfeit products, accounting for 72 percent of the total value of all seized goods, according to the most recent U.S. government data.

Counterfeit handbags and wallet seizures were by far the largest category, with U.S. authorities seizing $511 million worth of bogus items in that category. Of the approximately $511 million in handbags and wallets seized, more than $446 million came from China, about 87.3 percent of the total. China is also the main manufacturing hub for counterfeit apparel. Federal officials seized $133 million worth of counterfeit apparel in fiscal 2012.

In separate trade news, President Obama announced his intent on Friday to nominate Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) as ambassador to China.

Baucus, who has served in the Senate for 36 years, said he would not seek reelection next year. If confirmed by the Senate, Baucus would succeed the current ambassador, Gary Locke, who is stepping down early next year.

During his tenure, Baucus has been closely involved in trade issues, some of which caused friction with China. He has also criticized China for manipulating its currency and joined other senators in sponsoring legislation that would have penalized China if it did not boost the value of its currency, although the bill stalled in Congress and was never enacted.