China to target piracy

BEIJING (AP) — China has promised to pursue product pirates identified by U.S. authorities in a new effort to stamp out its thriving counterfeit industry, the head of the U.S. customs agency said yesterday.

The agreement comes amid mounting concern that Chinese pirates are endangering public safety in the United States and elsewhere by selling fake medicine, auto parts and other goods.

China accounted for about 80 percent of the 14,775 shipments of counterfeit goods seized at U.S. ports last year, said W. Ralph Basham, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Under a memorandum of cooperation signed this week, CBP will provide China with information on the source of seized goods, and Beijing will report back within 90 days on the status of efforts to track down the counterfeiters, he told reporters.

“We’ve got to start dealing with the source of the problem. We can’t expect to rely upon interdiction to be our tool in order to stop these products,” Mr. Basham said.

A representative of U.S. manufacturers said it remains to be seen how effective the initiative will be. China’s government frequently promises to crack down on counterfeiters but has made little dent in the country’s rampant piracy.

“It’s a potentially useful tool,” said Bill Primosch of the National Association of Manufacturers. “We’ll have to see whether they’re sincerely committed to implementing it.”

China has long been the world’s leading source of illegally copied goods ranging from designer clothes to movies and music. But concern about potential danger to the public has risen following the discovery of a toxic chemical in Chinese-made toothpaste.

Mr. Basham said his talks with Chinese officials did not touch on tainted products, which he said was the responsibility of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He said the FDA was in touch with Chinese officials.

Under foreign pressure, China has increased penalties for piracy and launched repeated crackdowns. But business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Motion Picture Association of America say the scale of piracy is growing faster than enforcement.

Mr. Basham met with his Chinese counterpart, Mu Xinsheng, and other officials this week.

Mr. Basham said American officials offered China help with security for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He said that might include support from a U.S. program used at several foreign airports to identify travelers who might be barred from the United States.

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