April 02, 2020
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Herculean Task

China cites lack of infrastructure for the delay in curbing piracy

Herculean Task
JUST one day before the arrival of US officials led by Washington's chief Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) negotiator, Assistant US Trade Representative Lee Sands last month, China announced the establishment of an Intellectual Property Rights Training Centre. But the Americans were unhappy. "It just demonstrates China's cavalier attitude...having dealt with this problem for a number of years, they waited until yesterday to open this centre," said a US official.

The centre, headed by Gao Lulin, is to provide professional courses on patents, trademark and copyrights to ensure the implementation of copyright laws. Beijing said the lack of expert IPR training of agents, supervisors, administrators, consultants, judges and lawyers was a major obstacle to implementing the law.

US officials say that while Chinese police have cracked down on traders of pirated goods, the number of illegal CD plants have risen from 29 to 34 over the past year.

The problem lies in tracking down these plants, counters Beijing. "Most of the operators are, in fact, mobile. Copying compact discs needs machinery that is quite easy to dismantle and set up elsewhere," adds Gao.

China also lacks legal infrastructure to deal with copyright infringements. Yet it is not the mainland Chinese entrepreneurs who are making most use of the loopholes. For years, Hong Kong was the piracy centre for items ranging from watches, software, music discs and even computers. IBM clones appeared in Hong Kong within weeks of the launch in the US. When Hong Kong, with US help, started cracking down on these traders, they simply moved across the border, where laws are still lax and enforcement non-existent. "We estimate that more than $4 billion is lost to the international community, not just the US, because of these infringements," said a spokesman for the Federation of Software Manufacturers, a body set up specifically to combat software piracy. 

According to Wu Yi, the Chinese foreign trade minister, Washington, under the pretext of safeguarding copyrights, had increased the US' trade deficit with China by barring high-technology exports and turning China's MFN status into a battle every year. 

On May 20, the China Daily boasted that China's sanctions would be of higher value than the US list as it would affect US investment in China as well as US imports. The newspaper also quoted an official in Wu's ministry as saying the "US government has consistently been inactive in helping its companies expand their exports to China."

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