April 8, 2009 / 6:33 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. business needs protection from knock-offs: USTR

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American businesses need better safeguards against knock-offs of their goods and more enforcement of trade rules to ensure that piracy does not hurt them or consumers, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Wednesday.

Safeguards “similar to those that we enjoy here in the United States” and tougher enforcement will ensure businesses can sell new ideas, goods and services in world markets and create new U.S. jobs, Kirk told the National Foreign Trade Council business group.

“A big part of helping fuel that innovation is making sure we provide protection ... for those innovators,” Kirk said.

“We need to work to preserve and grow innovative and creative industries now more than ever,” he added.

Piracy also can be dangerous for consumers, Kirk said, noting that counterfeit car parts, pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices pose a risk to health.

The United States has been working with the European Union, Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland on an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement since last year.

Kirk's office released a summary of the negotiations earlier this week, but noted details are still under discussion. The document is posted on the internet here

The United States recently challenged China at the World Trade Organization for failing to protect and enforce copyrights on films, music, branded goods and other items.

American entertainment and software industry groups have estimated that piracy in China costs them more than $3.7 billion in lost sales.

The WTO ruled last month that some Chinese practices were illegal, but exonerated it of other complaints.

The Obama administration has said it wants to focus on tougher U.S. enforcement of trade rules, and Kirk said he will work with the U.S. Congress on enforcement legislation.

Trading nations need to commit to protect intellectual property rights, open up market access and respect labor and environmental standards, Kirk said.

But he said the United States will leave as a “last resort” challenges at the WTO, and focus on “constructive dialogue” with partners to solve trade problems more quickly.

“I believe having a thoughtful, progressive, rules-based trade program for the United States can be a critical part of helping us restore our economy and create good jobs here at home,” Kirk said.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Will Dunham

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