The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will file two complaints against China with the World Trade Organization, including one accusing the country of being lax on enforcing copyright, it announced Monday.
The first complaint is over the U.S. view that China lacks enforcement of copyright and trademark protections, and the second complaint is over the view that China has trade barriers to U.S. books, music, movies and videos.
Bilateral negotiations called consultations are the first step in a WTO dispute. Under WTO rules, countries that do not resolve a matter through consultations within 60 days may request a WTO dispute settlement panel.
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, praised the decision to file a WTO complaint.
"We need to defend U.S. companies against abuse and hold our trading partners to the commitments they made in joining the WTO," he said in a statement. "The ability to protect intellectual property is a hallmark of a mature economy and responsible trading partner."
WTO complaints should only be filed as a last resort after informal efforts fail, Grassley added. "American businesses and consumers stand to lose if we overreact," he said. "But when China continues to refuse to play by the rules, then we need to take strong action, like we're doing today."
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America also cheered the action. The complaint is a "serious, significant, and welcome step" by the U.S. government, said Mitch Bainwol, the RIAA's chairman and CEO. He called the unauthorized copying of music "pervasive" in China.