BEIJING, Feb 23 (Reuters) China's top trade official today vowed to intensify her fight against illegally copied goods -- not to fend off complaints from Washington but to spur her own country's ambitions to become a technological power.
Vice Premier Wu Yi oversees Chinese trade and intellectual property, an area where the country's widespread piracy of software, music, films and other goods has provoked constant complaints from multinationals and rising threats from Washington.
But Wu told a meeting of Chinese business executives in Beijing that fighting piracy was crucial to China's own plans to become a technological powerhouse, fuelled by its own inventions.
''Without intellectual property right protection, there cannot be homegrown innovation,'' she said. ''Many of our businesses manufacture but don't innovate.
''We must be crystal clear that our country's still has far to go in protecting intellectual property rights.'' At the meeting, officials and two Chinese major businesses associations pledged to reject pirated goods, especially software, and to neither buy nor sell counterfeits.
Taking up a theme that has dominated China's state media in recent months, Chinese executives said their country would remain a technological lightweight unless it strengthens protection of patents, copyrights and trademarks.
''Compared to industrially developed countries, we haven't done nearly enough to protect and encourage businesses' intellectual innovation,'' said Chen Jinhua, the President of the China Enterprise Confederation, which represents many of China's biggest businesses.
Chen said Chinese businesses owned just three in 10,000 of the patents and other intellectual property held in the goods they make.
But most of the pressure on China about counterfeits is coming from Washington, which has responded warily to Beijing's past promises to stamp out pirates. This month, the United States Trade Representative Rob Portman issued a report that promised concerted action.
''IPR protection is one of China's greatest shortcomings,'' said the report. ''The volume of counterfeit goods from China seized at the US border continues to rise.'' Wu Yi also said widespread piracy was hurting China's attractiveness to foreign investors.
''These problems are not only...constraining healthy economic development, they are having a bad effect on our country's reputation and image'', she said.
REUTERS CS SP1125