The European Commission Thursday (Oct. 5) threatened to take China to the World Trade Organization if it failed to staunch the flow of counterfeit goods into Europe.
The warning came as the Commission — the European Union’s executive body — published a survey identifying China as the priority target in its fight against piracy and counterfeiting.
China is a rich source of pirate and counterfeit DVDs, CDs, software and other goods, which are often controlled by criminal organizations that are able to produce and ship items on an industrial scale. China was responsible for around two thirds of pirated goods entering the EU, the Commission said in a statement.
The Commission also named Russia, the Ukraine, Chile and Turkey as second-tier culprits in the counterfeiting trade.
If rampant piracy continued, “the EU does not exclude the possibility of action in the WTO against intellectual property rights infringement,” said EU trade spokesman Peter Power. He said the EU was sending a message of “concern and firm resolve” to all countries accused of piracy.
The WTO is the global trade watchdog, and its dispute panels are able to authorize millions of dollars of sanctions against countries found guilty of failing to comply with international trade law.
While the Commission named China as the top priority, it said other trading partners were also failing to stop the traffic. “These countries have made serious commitments to the EU to adopt the highest standards of intellectual property rights enforcement but need to considerably step-up their efforts and tackle serious deficiencies,” Power said.
The Commission said protecting intellectual property was about defending the EU’s ability to compete in the global economy. “Europe’s primary comparative advantage lies in creativity, invention and quality — and counterfeiting directly attacks this strength,” it said.
European and U.S. firms have long complained about the volume of pirated goods on sale in China. Despite a number of crackdowns by the Chinese government, counterfeit goods are still widely available in the country.
The counterfeit goods trade in the EU is estimated to be worth around €400 billion ($508 billion) annually, with DVDs, CDs, and cassettes representing about a third of all items seized by EU authorities.
The Commission’s “Enforcement Survey” was compiled from 290 replies to questionnaires sent to right-holders, business associations, EU delegations and embassies of EU member states.