The U.S. Trade Representative's office Friday rejected an industry request to slap its harshest piracy label on Russia, but said piracy problems in Russia continue to be a "serious concern."
In an annual report, USTR also said it was stepping up consideration of a possible World Trade Organization case against China for failing to enforce anti-piracy laws and announced it would conduct a provincial-level review of piracy problems in China this year for the first time.
U.S. movie, music and other copyright industry groups that comprise the International Intellectual Property Alliance urged the U.S. Trade Representative's office earlier this year to label Russia as a "priority foreign country," a designation reserved for countries with the most severe piracy problems.
The industry groups also asked USTR to immediately suspend trade benefits for Russia under the Generalized System of Preferences, which allows developing countries to ship many of their goods to the United States without paying duties.
USTR instead kept both Russia and China on its "priority watch list," its second most serious designation. The IIPA estimates U.S. companies suffered more $4 billion in lost sales in the two countries last year because of piracy.
Other countries put on the 2006 priority watch list were Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela. Thirty-four other trading partners, including the 25-nation European Union, were put on a lower priority watch list.
The IIPA estimates global piracy losses for U.S. companies at $30 billion to $35 billion in 2005.
Dan Glickman, president of the Motion Picture Association of American, said in a statement his group was pleased with USTR's decision to conduct an intensive review of anti-piracy enforcement activities at the provincial level in China.
But while there has been some signs that Russia is paying greater attention to piracy concerns, Glickman said Moscow must do more to address the problem.
"Until the rampant theft of intellectual property is addressed in a meaningful way, we will continue to push for consequences, including opposing Russia's ascension to the WTO and pressing the U.S. government to withdraw Russia's eligibility for reduced tariffs until that time," Glickman said.
The United States has been in intense talks with Russia on terms of its entry into the WTO and some industry officials believe the two sides are close to a deal.