The recent announcement of greater law enforcement efforts in the IPR sector is an interesting contrast to what has been going on with respect to environmental matters. In connection with President Hu Jintao’s visit to the US, there have been pronouncements that China will be cracking down on violators of IPR, including software pirating. The US Commerce Department seems to estimate that up to 70% of all Chinese software is pirated. In a conversation that I had with a Microsoft manager in Beijing a few months ago, he estimated that only 1 of every 10 copies of Windows used on Chinese computers was actually a legitimate version.
All of this has led to great efforts on the part of the US to prod China to step up its IPR enforcement efforts. While the rhetoric is good, what will actually occur remains to be seen. But within the last year, there have been some high profile enforcement actions, including law suits about knock-off goods against the Beijing silk market and another place that is very popular with foreigners and expats.
I have been wondering whether more dialogue (and prodding) by US officials with Chinese officials could yield a greater commmitment with respect to environmental enforcement. But the first question one would have to ask is why US officials would really care? I am quite certain that EPA and the US government generally “care” about environmental issues in China. But do they care enough to expend some diplomatic capital to raise such issues in high-level ministerial meetings? I don’t know what EPA Administrator Steve Johnson discussed with the SEPA director during his recent visit. But was such a meeting maybe a chance to discuss environmental enforcement and law implementation issues as has occurred with respect to IPR in other US/China ministerial meetings?