WASHINGTON — The Bush Administration on Friday called for “tough action” against global piracy and counterfeiting, highlighting a special need for China to strengthen enforcement of intellectual property laws.

“We are elevating China to the Priority Watch List for failure to effectively protect intellectual property rights,” said acting U.S. Trade Representative Peter Allgeier in a statement. His  office released its annual report on global intellectual property protections.

Of 90 countries, 52 were found to require special attention. Russia remains on the Priority Watch List for its weak enforcement of intellectual property laws.

Allgeier’s report was one of his last acts as the nation’s top trade representative. The Senate confirmed the appointment of Robert Portman as USTR on Friday.

Despite efforts on the part of China’s leadership to improve protections of intellectual property, the report said “infringements remain at epidemic levels” and that the administration would consider bringing its case to the WTO.

China’s overall piracy rates have not dropped since the country’s 2001 entry into the WTO. U.S. losses are $2.5 billion to $3.8 billion annually.

The value of Chinese goods carrying counterfeit trademarks seized by the U.S. increased 42.6 percent to $134 million last year and made up two-thirds of all  U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s intellectual property seizures.

“What this shows is that the U.S. is serious about addressing these problems,” said Stephen Lamar, senior vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association.

The call to action on intellectual property rights from the administration reflects concerns in Congress and U.S. industry, said Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations.

“The Chinese have not fulfilled the agreements they have signed to combat this threat,” he said. “We would certainly support more aggressive steps against China.”

Sen Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) ranking member, sent a letter co-signed by 18 other senators to Bush on Friday imploring more aggressive action against China’s intellectual property rights violations.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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