China blasts U.S. filings at WTO, expresses 'regret'

Says piracy , counterfeiting cases could damage trade

BEIJING  -- China on Tuesday denounced the U.S. decision to take to the World Trade Organization its complaints of widespread piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. goods.

The Bush administration, under pressure to get tougher on trade, announced separate cases against China at the WTO over pirated copies of music and movies and for placing market-access barriers against U.S. companies offering legitimate products.

"China expressed great regret and strong dissatisfaction at the decision of the U.S. to file WTO cases against China over intellectual property rights and access to the Chinese publication market," China Commerce Ministry spokesman Wang Xinpei said in a statement on the ministry's Web site. "The Chinese government's attitude towards intellectual property rights protection has always been resolute and its achievements obvious to all," the statement said.

"This runs against the consensus reached between the two countries' leaders as to developing bilateral trade relations and properly handling trade problems," the statement added.

It said the action would "seriously damage the two countries' established cooperation and bring an unfavorable impact on bilateral trade."

The U.S. move came as congressional anger over last year's record $232 billion U.S. trade deficit with China hampered efforts to win renewal of trade promotion authority, which the White House needs to finish negotiations on the Doha round of world trade talks.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab told reporters Monday that the two requests for dispute-settlement consultations -- the first steps in bringing a complaint at the WTO -- should not be viewed as "hostile" and denied the two countries risked slipping into a trade war.

Schwab said the U.S. remained open to a negotiated settlement without going through the WTO, which could take 18 months or more, but added that inadequate intellectual property rights protection is costing U.S. firms and workers "billions of dollars each year."

China regularly defends its record on fighting piracy, saying it is a developing country and needs time. But pirated movies and music discs are openly sold in shops and on street corners in Chinese cities for as little as 8 yuan (about $1) a copy.

"It's not a sensible move for the U.S. government to file such a complaint," China's intellectual property chief Tian Lipu told Xinhua on Tuesday. "By doing so, the U.S. has ignored the Chinese government's immense efforts and great achievements in strengthening IPR protection and tightening enforcement of its copyright laws," Tian said.