During a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, China's Minister of Commerce, Bo Xilai, denied that intellectual property rights (IPR) protection was a main factor in the trade imbalance with the US.
Bo was responding to a question on whether China's efforts on IPR protection would decrease the US trade deficit with China.
He said it was an exaggeration that China's insufficient IPR protection had greatly affected US interests in bilateral trade.
He understood the assumption of some Americans that they would earn bigger profits in China if IPR protection was improved.
"Yet with a full consideration of bilateral trade between the two countries, such an assumption does not stand up," Bo said.
Recent years had seen a dramatic drop in US exports of new hi-tech products to China, resulting in a dwindling of the US share of China's hi-tech imports.
This meant the proportion of products involving IPR in US exports to China was low, Bo said, noting that it was US export restrictions on new hi-tech products that affected the trade balance.
He said China's exports last year totaled US$760 billion, 58 percent of which were manufactured by foreign-owned companies in China.
China's actual trade surplus stood at US$20 billion to US$30 billion last year, excluding foreign-owned companies' exports from the country's overall US$100-billion-trade surplus, he said.
This indicated that the irrational trade structure and weak competitive capacity of China's companies were the major factors affecting the Sino-US trade balance rather than IPR protection, Bo said.
The criticism of China's IPR protection was a subjective assumption, he said, adding that China would nevertheless press on with IPR protection and endeavor to fulfill its international responsibilities.
Commitment to IPR protection
Also on Tuesday, Bo said China has actively pushed forward IPR protection in a responsible way and deals with IPR disputes with relevant parties in a cooperative manner.
The Chinese government is taking a range of IPR steps. For example, it now requires computer manufacturers to pre-install legal software programs, said Deputy Minister of Commerce Jiang Zengwei, who is also director of the State Office of Intellectual Property Protection.
Local governments and departments in 330 cities nationwide have purchased and installed legal software programs, and 123 district and county governments are dealing with the installation of legal software programs, the official said.
The State Administration for Industry and Commerce issued a circular in February demanding rectification of the wholesale and retail markets in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces to crack down on fake goods.
Jiang said China has strictly abided by its World Trade Organization commitments in terms of IPR protection.
Special service centers planned
China plans to set up special service centers in 50 cities within three years to handle domestic complaints of IPR infringement, Jiang added.
Also Director of the State Office of Intellectual Property Protection, Jiang said these centers will provide IPR-related consulting services so as to raise the general public's awareness of IPR protection.
Upon completion, these service centers will be connected to official websites of departments in charge of IPR protection, he said.
According to Jiang, the emphasis of China's IPR protection in 2006 is to establish a vertical IPR protection system from the central government to local governments at all levels.
IPR protection will be high on the agenda of local governments and their programs for economic and social development.
In 2006, China plans to establish and improve the supervision of IPR protection, and establish a system of accountability.
Jiang said that this year China will combine the routine supervision of IPR protection with special campaigns and make more efforts to investigate big IPR infringement cases.
China will strengthen its efforts in combating piracy, handling trademark and patent infringements as well as enhancing the administration of expositions to keep put fake goods.
(Xinhua News Agency April 12, 2006)