WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday placed Russia on its list of countries with the worst records of preventing copyright theft for the 13th straight year, just days after the two nations agreed to intensify talks on Moscow’s bid to join the World Trade Organization.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office also put China on its “priority watch list” for the sixth consecutive year and Canada for the second. The list carries no threat of sanctions, but aims to shame governments into cracking down on piracy and updating their copyright laws.
“Intellectual property theft in overseas markets is an export killer for American businesses and a job killer for American workers here at home,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.
Algeria, Argentina, Chile, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela rounded out the priority watch list.
All the listed countries will be “the subject of particularly intense engagement through bilateral discussion during the coming year,” USTR said.
The International Intellectual Property Alliance, which represents U.S. copyright industry groups, has estimated that U.S. trade losses due to piracy in more than three dozen countries surpassed $15.8 billion in 2009.
That included more than $3.5 billion in China, $1.9 billion in Russia, $1.5 billion in India, $1.1 billion in Italy, $978 million in Brazil and $710 million in Canada.
“With the U.S. and many other economies working to recover from the global fiscal crisis, our government needs to redouble its efforts to stem massive global theft of U.S. copyrighted works, whether in physical forms or on the Internet,” IIPA President Eric Smith said in a statement.
U.S. movie, software, music and other copyright industries already bring in more than $126 billion in revenue each year from trade, and reducing global piracy would help industry reach the U.S. goal of doubling exports in five years.
Stan McCoy, assistant U.S. trade representative for intellectual property and innovation, said Russia still needed to fulfill many of the commitments it made in 2006 to bolster enforcement of intellectual property rights.
“Implementation of this bilateral agreement is important in our consideration of the way forward on Russia’s WTO accession,” McCoy said, adding that Moscow has not given a timeframe for enacting the reforms.
In addition to China’s high piracy rates, the United States is “seriously concerned about China’s implementation of ‘indigenous innovation’ policies that may unfairly disadvantage U.S. IPR holders,” Kirk said, using the acronym for international piracy rights.
U.S. manufacturers, computer technology and other business groups have been alarmed about a Chinese policy that requires companies to develop their intellectual property in China if they want to qualify for preferences under that country’s government procurement program.
McCoy said he expected the issue to be raised at the upcoming U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting in Beijing in late June.
The United States appreciates China has recently asked for public comments on proposed changes to one particular regulation, but it remains concerned about the direction of China’s indigenous innovation policies, he added.
“We’re pressing for comprehensive dialogue with China on appropriate nondiscriminatory ways to foster innovation, not to condition it, not to push it into China but to let it work for both China and its trading partners, McCoy said.
Canada is on the priority watch list for a second year because it still has not passed promised legislation to boost protection of intellectual property rights.
“Even though Canada is a world leader in its rate of Internet usage and online file-sharing, Canada’s IPR regime has not kept pace with changing technology,” McCoy said.
The United States wants Canada to follow through on commitments it made in 1997, when it signed onto international treaties governing the Internet.
“We also are encouraging Canada to provide its customs authorities with the authority to seize pirated and counterfeit products,” McCoy said.
Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Philip Barbara