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U.S. trade officials prepared, then withdrew WTO case over copyright piracy

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government withheld a World Trade Organization complaint against China over video and music piracy last October because Beijing said it wanted more time to resolve the matter bilaterally, a U.S. trade official said last Thursday.

But Deputy Trade Representative Kharan K. Bhatia told the House Ways and Means subcommittee that if the ongoing negotiations with China are not successful, the United States will bring its case to the world trade body.

If the WTO were to rule against China, the United States could seek authorization to impose retaliatory tariffs on Chinese imports.

China's "rampant infringement of intellectual property rights ... robs U.S. businesses of billions of dollars a year in legitimate sales," Bhatia said.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance, a coalition of copyright groups representing the U.S. movie, music and software industries, said Feb. 12 that piracy in China cost U.S. companies over $2.2 billion in 2006.

The alliance represents more than 1,900 companies, including high-tech and software firms such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), as well as motion picture and recording industry companies such as Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) and News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS) Twentieth Century Fox.

The United States filed a separate WTO dispute settlement case Feb. 2 against China over its export subsidies, which the United States charged violate WTO rules.

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