By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Wednesday kept China, Russia and India on its annual list of countries with the worst records of preventing the theft of intellectual property and cited Switzerland for failing to curb online copyright infringements.
The annual list, released by the U.S. Trade Representative's Office, carries no threat of sanctions, but aims to shame governments into cracking down on piracy and counterfeiting and updating their copyright laws.
"Intellectual property is a critical source of economic growth and high-quality jobs for the United States, and it is more important than ever to prevent foreign governments and competitors from ripping off United States innovators who are trying to support high-paying jobs by exporting their goods and services to consumers around the world,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement.
The trade agency said that the value added of U.S.-held intellectual property was approximately $5 trillion in 2010, contributing 34 percent to U.S. gross domestic product that year and supporting 40 million jobs in IP-intensive industries.
It said China has undertaken some intellectual property law reforms, but the highest level of scrutiny was still warranted due to trade secret theft, rampant piracy and counterfeiting of online and physical goods, as well as newer requirements that condition market access on use of intellectual property IP developed in or transferred to China.
India stays on the highest priority watch list due to lack of measurable improvements to its intellectual property legal framework, despite stepped up enforcement efforts, USTR said. But Pakistan was upgraded to the regular watch list after it created specialized intellectual property courts, established a timeline for improving its legal framework and improved border security.
Switzerland was added to the regular watch list because it has become an increasingly popular host country for copyright-infringing websites, belying its generally strong record on IP issues, USTR said.
Overall, the agency has 11 countries on the "Priority Watch List": Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela. It said these countries will be the subject of particularly intense bilateral engagement during the coming year.
There are 23 other countries on the "Watch List" that highlights other IP problems: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
(Reporting By David Lawder)