Message: 'Zero tolerance' for counterfeits.

The United States and the European Union pledged Wednesday (Nov. 30) to join forces to fight soaring trade in counterfeiting and piracy. EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said after a meeting with US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in Brussels that the two sides would set up "a focused and comprehensive cooperation process" to protect intellectual property rights, sharing information and planning joint action."

Gutierrez commented, "This is an issue we both recognize requires attention and collaboration, and there are many areas where we can work together to stop intellectual property violations across the world."

The Brussels meeting, which also gathered EU enterprise commissioner Guenther Verheugen and US assistant treasury secretary Clay Lowery, agreed to launch a strategy at next summer's transatlantic summit between President Bush and European commission president José Manuel Barroso. In the meantime, a working group will be set up in January to focus on improving border enforcement co-operation, and encouraging public-private partnerships.

Mandelson said the global trade in counterfeit goods was worth up to $424 billion a year, ranging from pirated movies and music to toys that fail to meet safety standards. "What we need more than anything is to pool our intelligence, share our analysis, plan our activity coordinated where appropriate," Mandelson said, adding that they would "share information and analysis, plan and coordinate joint activity." By doing so, Mandelson said "we send a message to the rest of world" of "zero tolerance" for counterfeits.

Gutierrez said the EU and United States, the two most innovation intense economies in the world, would encourage other countries to step up enforcement. He also said he was prepared to share with European authorities customs information and corporate complaints against Chinese manufacturers.