U.S. says China to take tougher stance against trade secret theft

Mon Nov 23, 2015 7:16am EST
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By James Pomfret

GUANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - The United States Commerce Secretary said on Monday China would offer better legal protection to U.S. firms that suffer theft of trade secrets after annual trade talks that yielded scant progress on other topics like a proposed investment treaty.

Few breakthroughs had been expected ahead of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) talks in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, amid tensions over cyber hacking; a topic that had been addressed by both sides in September during President Xi Jinping's visit to the U.S.

The U.S., led by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Trade Secretary Michael Froman, however, said after a weekend of talks that China clarified its intent to do more to help firms facing the theft of trade secrets.

"We got significant outcomes on trade secrets which is a really big issue," Pritzker told Reuters in an interview.

"This is where China clarified its intent to make preliminary injunctions and meaningful remedies and other judicial protections more easily accessible to those who are confronting trade secret theft ... It's a big deal."

The issue has become a growing problem for American companies. Victims have included General Motors, Ford, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Motorola, Boeing and Cargill as well as lesser-known firms.

Xi and U.S. President Obama agreed in September that neither government would knowingly support cyber theft of corporate secrets to support domestic businesses, but U.S. experts argue Chinese hackers continue to target U.S. firms.  [nL1N12J048]

U.S. trade representative Michael Froman also told Reuters that he expected some U.S. genetically modified crop strains, including GMO soybeans, could be approved by China by year end, following protracted reviews.   Continued...

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, accompanied by Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (not pictured), speaks during a news briefing in Kiev, Ukraine, October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko