President Bush has created a new senior-level position to fight global intellectual-property piracy and counterfeiting that cost American companies billions of dollars each year, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said on Friday.
"Intellectual-property theft is a major problem around the world. We believe that it is costing U.S. businesses about $250 billion in lost sales," Gutierrez told Reuters in an interview with reporters and editors.
Bush has tapped Chris Israel, currently deputy chief of staff for Gutierrez, to head up the administration's anti-piracy efforts. China -- where 90 percent of music and movies are pirate copies -- will be a chief priority, Gutierrez said.
"Frankly, our goal is to reduce (China's piracy levels) to zero," Gutierrez said. He declined to specify a timetable, but acknowledged it could be a lengthy effort.
Gutierrez got a personal glimpse of rampant piracy in China during a visit earlier this month, when he was offered the chance to buy a pirated copy of the newest Star Wars movie for $1 dollar, an aide said.
The United States will closely monitor a long list of anti-piracy pledges China made at this month's high-level Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meeting, including a promise to increase criminal prosecutions, Gutierrez said.
The skyrocketing U.S. trade deficit -- which reached a record $618 billion last year -- has compounded U.S. concerns about piracy and counterfeiting. Companies that produce movies, music and software and other intellectual property account for a growing share of what the United States has to sell to the rest of the world.
U.S. manufacturers of products ranging from shampoo to auto-safety glass also complain that they often have to compete with counterfeit versions of their own products in China and other markets around the world.
The Commerce Department estimates nearly 7 percent of the goods in the global market are counterfeit.
Israel was a public policy executive at Time Warner, a media company with strong interests in intellectual property rights protection, before joining the Commerce Department. He also has worked in Congress as a legislative aide.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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