WASHINGTON China and Russia again lead the United States' annual list of the world's biggest producers of pirated and counterfeited goods, a U.S. trade report said on Monday.
"We must defend ideas, inventions and creativity from rip-off artists and thieves," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a statement accompanying the report, which details copyright and patent theft around the world.
The United States recently filed a pair of complaints against China at the World Trade Organization for failing to adequately protect U.S. goods -- ranging from movies and music to manufactured goods -- from piracy and counterfeiting.
Russia's failure to stop the same problem is one of the biggest obstacles blocking its entry into the WTO.
"The administration's top priorities this year continue to be addressing weak IPR (intellectual property rights) protection and enforcement, particularly in China and Russia," the trade office said in its report.
USTR will conduct a special review this year to assess how well Russia is honoring commitments to improve its IPR regime. U.S. official raised concerns about copyright legislation passed by the Russia Duma last year that they said appeared to be inconsistent with WTO rules.
U.S. political concern over the worldwide trade in fake and illegally-copied goods has mounted in recent years.
At a time when the U.S. trade deficit continues to set new records, U.S. lawmakers complain that piracy and counterfeiting is robbing the United States of exports in industries and sectors where it should have an advantage.
"This report ... signals to our trading partners that effective IPR protection will remain a critical focus in U.S. policy," Schwab said.
USTR placed China and Russia on its "priority watch list" for IPR violations, along with 10 other countries -- Argentina, Chile, Egypt, India, Israel, Lebanon, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela.
Thirty other countries were placed on a lower-level watch list, while Paraguay remained subject to a special monitoring program under a bilateral agreement aimed at addressing piracy and counterfeiting concerns in that country.
Brazil was moved from the priority watch list to the lower-level watch level because of progress it has made over the past year. Five other trading partners -- Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia and the 27-nation European Union -- were removed from the annual watch list altogether, USTR said.
Victoria Espinel, assistant U.S. trade representative for intellectual property, said the United States nearly put Canada on the priority watch list because of illegal camcording of U.S. films in movie theaters, and concerns over Canada's customs enforcement and copyright legislation.