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Russia must fight piracy for WTO entry: US official

By Staff
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Washington, Apr 6: Russia must act to enforce anti-piracy laws and punish intellectual property thieves more harshly if talks with the United States on its entry to the World Trade Organisation are to conclude soon, a senior US official said yesterday.

US Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary David Sampson declined to give a timeline for the negotiations and deferred to Trade Representative Robert Portman for updates on the talks.

But he stressed Russia needed to offer more on protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) and, in particular, on providing assurances that pirates and counterfeiters of computer software, movies and music were dealt with more aggressively.

''At the end of the day, Russia has to come to the table to able to resolve these final outstanding issues,'' Sampson told reporters after a speech on America's relations with Russia.

''There are three legs to a robust IPR mechanism -- a legislative framework, strong enforcement and then, very serious consequences,'' Sampson said. ''There has to be more than a slap on the wrist whenever pirates and counterfeiters are adjudicated in the court system.'' Russia is the largest economy outside the WTO and has been in talks to enter the 149-member trade body for 13 years. But it still needs to sign bilateral deals with the United States, Australia and Colombia.

Tensions between Washington and Moscow grew last week over perceived delays to US backing for Russia's WTO bid.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States was making new demands and this was a setback in the process.

''We have received a list of questions from our American colleagues requiring additional agreement which we considered settled long ago,'' he said.

Russian officials said US President George W Bush had sent a letter to Putin outlining 10 issues that needed to be resolved for Russia's accession to the WTO.

At talks in Geneva last week some of the issues were lifted, though five or six remained, including agriculture and financial services, they said.

Sampson said there were no new issues on the table and none of those outstanding were unique.

''If Russia is serious about joining WTO and becoming a knowledge-based economy, then clearly more work has to be done on the enforcement and consequences of protecting intellectual property,'' he said.

''President Bush remains committed to engaging Russia and we hope for progress on a number of fronts between now and when the G8 meets in St Petersburg in July.'' The G8 group of industrialized nations consists of the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia. Russia holds the G8 rotating presidency for the first time in 2006.

REUTERS

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