Russia must improve IP enforcement to join WTO: U.S. official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russia must improve efforts to stop piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. music, movies and other goods to achieve its longterm goal of joining the World Trade Organization, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

“We have made clear to the Russia government repeatedly that intellectual property enforcement has to be strengthened in order for them to enter the WTO,” Victoria Espinel, the U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator, told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

A few weeks ago, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to resolve issues blocking Russia’s WTO accession by the end of September.

However, the top Republican on House Foreign Affairs Committee said that timetable was too fast.

“Given Russia’s history of broken promises, Moscow should be required to demonstrate a long track record of success prior to an OK by the U.S. to its joining the WTO,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican.

Espinel told committee members she wanted to allay any concerns that Moscow would get a free pass on intellectual property enforcement and said U.S. trade officials would be traveling to Russia in coming weeks to discuss the issue.

Chris Israel, who held Espinel’s position from May 2005 to March 2008, said meeting the deadline Obama and Medvedev set would be “a heavy lift.”

To comply with a deal the United States and Russia struck in 2006, Moscow must make a range of criminal, civil and customs enforcement improvements, he said.

However, Russia may have more incentive now to take those steps in light of the country’s goal of shifting to a more innovative and technological economy from one primarily dependent on natural resource exports, he said.

Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Doina Chiacu