Byline: Jim Ostroff

WASHINGTON — An agreement between China and the U.S. to protect trademarks and patents was reached early Sunday in Beijing, averting a potential trade war and producing declarations of praise from American apparel manufacturers, importers and retailers.
“Any agreement that opens up the Chinese marketplace, protects U.S. trademarks and all intellectual property has to be considered a significant step in the right direction,” said Larry Martin, the American Apparel Manufacturers Association’s president.
The accord, which averted the imposition of 100 percent duties on $1.08 billion of Chinese imports — including $7 million in silk fashion accessories and $50 million worth of athletic footwear — actually was not made final until nine hours after the U.S. deadline of 12:01 a.m. Sunday (EST), said U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, following a briefing at the White House Conference Center. Neither the U.S. nor China, which promised to levy similar “killer duties” on American goods, actually imposed the sanctions.
Kantor insisted that the last-minute haggling was worth it, explaining at a press briefing that China agreed to enforce international intellectual property laws and to close factories that make pirated versions of U.S. movies, computer software and compact discs. He said China vowed to bring criminal charges against such violators and to give foreigners the right to sue in Chinese courts to halt product-counterfeiting activities.
Throughout the 20 months of talks between the two nations, both sides were concerned that failure to reach agreement could trigger a trade war, with each country escalating sanctions to include sensitive trade products, including apparel.
Even the initial round of tariff sanctions could have hurt retailers, said Robert Hall, a National Retail Federation vice president.
“There is no way we could pass on 100 percent duties, and we’d have been forced to source in other, much-higher-cost markets, where these [silk] products still might not be available,” Hall said.
Julia Hughes, the Associated Merchandising Corp.’s Washington vice president and chairwoman of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, said American-based manufacturers and those who contract in China for apparel production will benefit from the new pact.
“Many of our association’s members have their own brands that now will have stronger trademark and copyright protections,” Hughes said. “Whether you’re Levi’s or Disney, you can be [illegal] knockoff candidates, so hopefully, there will be new protections against this in China.” — Fairchild News Service