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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
China-US talks reach wi-fi deal

By Francis Markus
BBC Shanghai correspondent

China and the United States have reached agreement on several contentious trade issues after talks between the visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi and US officials in Washington.

Advertisement in Beijing
Consumer goods are a popular target for fakers

China pledged action ranging from cracking down on rampant intellectual property piracy to opening up the country's goods distribution system and suspending a controversial technology standard on wi-fi wireless internet.

The two sides hope the measures will help ease tension over the huge American trade deficit with China which looms large ahead of November's US presidential elections.

On the streets of Shanghai you do not have to search hard for counterfeit brand name watches, leather handbags and DVDs.

And this counts as a city with a tough enforcement record.

Cracking down on fakes

Yet the announcement in Washington by Wu Yi of a new plan to combat piracy is being greeted with what one intellectual property lawyer termed cautious optimism.

Ms Wu has pledged that under new rules, the threshold for criminal prosecutions will be lowered.

But among the problems is that too many Chinese agencies are involved, and they do not always talk to each other.

Local officials are often paid off by counterfeiters, who are major employers in many small cities.

Wi-fi breakthrough

It is not just foreign products that get pirated. Reputable Chinese companies suffer exactly the same fate. But the issue has long been an irritant in US-Chinese trade relations.

Businessmen using wi-fi technology
Wireless internet is popular with travelling businessmen

On a considerably fresher issue, China says it is now shelving the implementation of new wireless encryption standards for computers and mobile phones which had drawn US protests.

That will be seen as significant in easing tension over what systems to adopt so that the world's electronic gadgets can talk to each other without wires.

But it will remain an area to watch as China becomes more assertive in keeping with its status as a rising industrial power.

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