Source AP ©

America to negotiate with other major countries about counterfeit products

The United States plans to negotiate with other major countries to bolster the fight against counterfeit products.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said the Bush administration planned to join with other countries to negotiate an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that would toughen efforts to confront copyright piracy.

"Global counterfeiting and piracy steal billions of dollars from workers, artists and entrepreneurs each year and jeopardize the health and safety of citizens across the world," Schwab told a news conference. "Today launches our joint efforts to confront counterfeiters and pirates across the global marketplace."

She said the United States was in discussions with Canada, the 27-nation European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland on developing the new agreement, which would support high enforcement standards against copyright piracy.

She also said that the new pact would complement rules already on the books against copyright piracy that are overseen by the World Trade Organization. The new agreement, which the administration hopes to negotiate quickly, would set a higher benchmark for enforcement that countries will be able to join on a voluntary basis, Schwab said.

Industry groups and members of Congress praised Schwab's action.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said he believes the proposal would set a common standard for intellectual property among nations committed to strong enforcement. He said the pact should lay the groundwork for a larger intellectual property agreement in the WTO that would strengthen current protections in this area.

"Ideas are America's true currency and if we want to be economically competitive, strong protections for U.S. intellectual property are key," Baucus said in a statement.

George Scalise, the president of the Semiconductor Industry Association, said reliability problems caused by counterfeit semiconductors can cause major economic and safety losses given the widespread use of computer chips in products ranging from computers to automobiles to medical equipment.

Schwab said the copyright agreement that will be negotiated with other nations will focus on three major areas - cooperation among countries, best practices for fighting copyright piracy and developing a strong legal framework to prosecute violations of intellectual property rights.

"The United States looks forward to partnering with many of our key trading partners to combat this global problem," Schwab said.

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