Pact sealed Nov. 19.

Russian promises to beef up intellectual property protection are part of the bilateral market access agreement signed yesterday (Nov. 19) by the United States and Russian governments. The agreement takes Russia, the largest pirate market after China, one step closer to becoming part of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Under the terms of the agreement, signed by U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Russian Minister of Trade and Economic Development German Gref, Russia will immediately start taking action to address piracy and counterfeiting, as well as further improve its laws on intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement to comply with international standards. The Russian government confirmed its commitment to implementing this agreement and to making IPR a priority, the USTR reports. The agreement also sets the stage for further progress on IPR issues in ongoing multilateral negotiations.

"Russia has pledged to meaningfully address this problem and to ensure that its practices are consistent with international standards," Neil Turkewitz, RIAA executive VP, international, said in a statement. "Among other things, achieving compliance with international standards will mean attacking piracy at known manufacturing facilities; securing controls over optical disc replication facilities to ensure that they operate transparently and legally; taking down Web sites such as that operate without the consent of the rightsholders; preventing fraudulent practices on the part of self-designated collecting societies that offer ‘licenses’ with respect to materials that they are not authorized to grant; and ensuring that laws and regulations, including the current draft civil code, are consistent with the TRIPS agreement and provide protection in line with the demands of a 21st century world."

Last December, the U.S. Senate passed a joint resolution calling on the Russian Federation to provide effective protection for intellectual property or risk not being accepted into the WTO. It was passed by the House the previous month. The resolution also warned the Russian government that it would lose its duty-free trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences if it failed to take action.

"We worked through many difficult issues, and the agreement sets the stage for closer cooperation in many commercial areas, as well as moving Russia closer to joining the WTO’s rules-based trading system and reinforcing Russia’s economic reforms, which is so essential to Russia’s own growth and development," Ambassador Schwab said in a statement.

Russia has been negotiating its terms of accession to the WTO, and previously the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1947 (GATT), since 1993. The next step in Russia’s accession process is completion of multilateral negotiations on a Working Party Report and Protocol of Accession that details the changes Russia will make to bring its trade regime into conformity with WTO rules.

"It is significant that our signing takes place on the margins of the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Leaders," Ambassador Schwab said. "APEC represents the most dynamic trading region of the world. Russia is an important Pacific partner and WTO Membership ultimately will strengthen our cooperation in economic matters. We will work diligently with other APEC Members, our trading partners, and Russia on the multilateral aspects of the accession negotiation. We still have work to do, but today’s agreement puts new energy and momentum into the negotiating process. We will continue to work closely with domestic stakeholders and the U.S. Congress in the next phase of the negotiations."

“We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Ambassador Susan Schwab and to Minister German Gref for their vision and dedication in bringing Russia one big step closer to formal inclusion in the institutions governing global trade," Turkewitz said. "Greater transparency, the operation of the rule of law, and further liberalization of Russia’s economy hold promise for improving the lives of Russians -- and should also lead to enhanced global prosperity and stability. That ‘promise,’ however, remains just that. There is a long road before that potential can be realized."