China in for EU trade war, commissioner warns


BRUSSELS -- China could face a trade war with the European Union if it fails to deal with rampant piracy and counterfeiting, a top EU official warned Tuesday.

In a thinly veiled threat, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said there will be "impatience and anger" if Beijing fails to take action. Speaking after "frank, concentrated and prolonged" talks in Brussels with Chinese Trade Minister Bo Xilai, Mandelson urged China to act now, "rather than let it get out of hand."

"The Chinese have to recognize that their easy access to our market is going to be increasingly questioned," Mandelson warned. He said that if public opinion was not satisfied by China's response, "pressure is going to come on us at the commission to start limiting in different ways the access that Chinese producers and exporters have to our market."

Mandelson has been under increasing pressure from EU governments to push China harder, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy attacking the "naivety" of the EU position.

Mandelson has visited China several times since taking up his post 2 1/2 years ago, but with little effect on China's counterfeiting of DVDs, CDs and computer software. He has consistently urged the Chinese authorities not only to enact tough laws but to implement them effectively across the country.

Two months ago, the EC added its weight to the U.S.' piracy and counterfeiting complaint against China at the World Trade Organization. China reacted by suspending its bilateral dialogue with the EU over copyright protection, a move Mandelson described as "hardly sensible and illogical."

Mandelson's tough stance was echoed in Beijing by his colleague, EU internal market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, who met with key Chinese officials, including Vice-Prime Minister Wu Yi and Finance Minister Jin Renqing.

The warning came less than a fortnight after commission figures revealed that seizures of counterfeit movies, music and software leapt 139% last year, with a stunning 93% of them coming from China.

Despite repeated police raids, hawkers of pirated discs re-emerge on Chinese streets as soon as an anti-piracy campaign begins to ebb. Courts around China settled 17,769 IPR protection cases in 2006. However, most of these were civil cases, with only 2,277 criminal prosecutions resulting in 3,508 convictions.