China vows copyright cooperation after WTO case

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China pledged on Tuesday to cooperate with other countries to strengthen its protection of copyrights and trademarks, after the United States claimed victory in a groundbreaking World Trade Organization case.

A WTO panel found “a number of deficiencies” in China’s enforcement of intellectual property rights, Washington announced on Monday. U.S. music, movie, book and software groups claim piracy in China costs them over $3.7 billion in lost sales.

“We will engage vigorously with China on appropriate corrective actions to ensure that U.S. rights holders obtain the benefits of this decision,” acting U.S. Trade Representative Peter Allgeier said.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Yao Jian insisted that Beijing had made great progress in curbing piracy, and expressed regret that the WTO panel had not found in China’s favor in areas such as copyright law.

He welcomed the panel’s decision against one major U.S. claim, that copyright pirates had no fear of criminal prosecution because the Chinese government’s threshold for bringing a case was too high.

But Yao, in one of his government’s first comments on a Sino-U.S. trade dispute since President Barack Obama took office last week, also promised that China would work with the international community to resolve the issue.

“As we strengthen our work on domestic intellectual property rights, we will continue to promote international exchanges and cooperation, in order to encourage the healthy development of trade relations,” he said without elaborating.

China’s statement on the piracy issue was more conciliatory than its response to criticism of its currency policy last week by incoming U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who said Beijing was “manipulating” the value of the yuan.

“These comments do not only not accord with reality, they are also a misinterpretation of the main reasons for the financial crisis, and will encourage the rise of trade protectionism in some Western countries,” China’s official Xinhua news agency said in commentary on Sunday.

Reporting by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Sugita Katyal