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US Commerce Secretary to China: Piracy Issue Not Negotiable

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez began a three-day trip to China Thursday with a strong warning for Beijing to fulfill its commitments to crack down on piracy, the counterfeiting of trademarked goods.

Secretary Gutierrez told a gathering of American businesspeople here the problem of intellectual property violations remains a serious one. He said the time has come for Beijing to start acting on its promises to crack down on those responsible for the piracy. "Intellectual property rights violations are a crime, and we don't believe we should be negotiating crimes with our partners. Everything else is up for negotiation," he said.

U.S. officials say counterfeit goods from China, ranging from music and video discs to apparel, pharmaceuticals and airplane parts, costs American businesses up to $3.8 billion a year.

His visit to Beijing comes as trade tensions rise over a surge of Chinese textile exports that has prompted U.S. and E.U. officials to move to impose quotas. China this week responded by canceling some export tariffs.

Mr. Gutierrez indicated the United States is open to discussing the issue of textiles with Chinese officials. However, his remarks suggested the issue of intellectual property rights is at the top of his agenda on this trip.

He urged Beijing to cooperate with U.S. efforts to combat piracy, saying China's help will be necessary to stop political factions in the United States from pushing through protectionist measures.

Secretary Gutierrez said both China and the United States have much to lose if Beijing does not make good on its promises to boost criminal penalties and other measures to combat intellectual property theft. "We need more than commitments. We need results. The absence of results only empowers those within the U.S. political system who are pushing an American retreat from the global economy," he said.

A ballooning U.S China trade imbalance has fueled protectionist sentiments in the United States, with some politicians and labor unions blaming what they say are Chinese unfair trade practices for the loss of American jobs.