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Anti-counterfeiting agreement signed in Tokyo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Governments of eight nations including Japan and the United Stated signed an agreement on Saturday aiming to cut costly copyright and trademark theft.

The signing is a step toward bringing into effect the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which is designed to strengthen the legal framework for intellectual property rights, said Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

“As with many of the challenges we face in today’s global economy, no government can single-handedly eliminate the problem of global counterfeiting and piracy,” Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro said at the ceremony, according to a copy of her remarks released in Washington.

“Signing this agreement is therefore an act of shared leadership and determination in the international fight against intellectual property (IP) theft,” Sapiro said.

Mark Elliot, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, called the pact “a big victory for the American business community, workers, and IP-intensive sectors across our economy.”

“This accord raises the bar on enforcement by improving cooperation among partners, harmonizing how we confront IP theft, addressing IP theft online, and setting a positive example for nations that aspire to have strong IP enforcement regimes,” Elliott said.

The signing took place a year after the final round of negotiations among 11 parties -- Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.

The EU, Mexico and Switzerland have not signed the agreement but have until May 1, 2013, to do so, according to the METI.

The pact takes effect with the ratification of six parties and the METI expects an expansion of ACTA participants.

Reporting by Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo and Doug Palmer in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel and Vicki Allen