Administration Considers Targeting China Over Copyright Piracy
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration debated Friday whether to target China for possible sanctions because of alleged copyright piracy. Officials said a decision was expected to be announced next week.
The administration is facing a congressional deadline of Saturday to determine what countries should be targeted for their alleged violations of U.S. copyright and patent laws and for discriminating against U.S. firms in government contracts.
While U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor’s office had originally scheduled announcements for Friday, officials said the issue was still under review and officials planned to work up until the midnight deadline with official announcements to be made Monday.
White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said Clinton was reviewing Friday with other members of his National Economic Council the question of whether countries should be put on special negotiating lists because of unfair trade practices.
Under a section of trade law known as Special 301, the administration must by April 30 of each year submit a list of ″priority″ countries deemed to be the worst offenders in the area of theft of copyrights and patents and also in failing to allow U.S. firms to compete on an equal basis for government contracts.
U.S. business interests have been lobbying to have China included in this year’s list. They contend that China’s failure to crack down on pirate recording and publishing firms was costing U.S. entertainment companies $800 million a year in lost exports.
However, some in the administration have urged Clinton to refrain from putting China on the list now, arguing that it would strain relations between the two countries at a time when Clinton is pushing for human-rights reforms.
The president must decide by June 3 whether to renew China’s ″most favored nation″ trading status, which qualifies the country for the lowest tariffs available for its exports to the United States.
The administration is also considering whether to name Japan as an offender in the area of government procurement. Diane Wildman, a spokeswoman for the trade representative’s office, refused to comment on a published report that officials have decided against putting Japan on the ″priority″ list in the government procurement area but will instead put the country on lower category list that does not pose the threat of potential sanctions.
In addition to the Special 301 listing of countries in the copyright and government procurement areas, the administration earlier this year announced that it was reviving a potent weapon in U.S. trade law known as ″Super 301″ and will by Sept. 30 issue a list of countries deemed to have erected the most unfair trade barriers against U.S. products.
The Super 301 provision was brought back to life after negotiations aimed at opening Japan’s market broke down in February.