Canada Joins U.S. WTO Complaint Against China

This morning the Canadian government announced that it is joining the U.S. World Trade Organization complaint against China over Chinese intellectual property protection.  Canada will be a "third party" in the complaint, which was launched earlier this month over China's criminal statutes involving commercial-scale copyright infringement. The Department of Foreign Affairs claims that Canada's participation is based on "concerns expressed by Canadian stakeholders on a range of issues related to China’s intellectual property rights regime." 

This is obviously nonsense.  According to Statistics Canada, China only imported $13 million worth of Canadian culture goods or one-half of one percent of total Canadian culture goods exports.  In other words, the Chinese market for Canadian cultural goods is presently tiny.  While it is certainly possible that copyright infringement is eating away at some Canadian exports (and that China is a source of counterfeit products that are sold in Canada), the transparent reality is that Canada has succumbed to U.S. pressure (see my BBC piece today on the global U.S. IP pressure) become the first country to join the U.S. in the WTO complaint.  The European Union immediately rejected the possibility of joining the complaint, presumably leaving the U.S. looking for other partners in its latest attempt at coalition building.  With the continuing U.S. pressure on Canada on the intellectual property front, this was likely viewed as an easy way to curry favour with the U.S. (with the "only" cost being a continuing degeneration of Canada-China trade relations).   The irony is that the USTR Special 301 report, due within days, will hold the prospect of U.S. trade sanctions against Canada for its own intellectual property protection framework.

Update: Sources say that both the European Union (reversing an earlier statement) and Japan will also be joining the WTO complaint. 


  1. Alexandre Racine says:

    I think that, in this case, they are really trying to protect the copy-all nature of China. For example Bombardier is in China to build a lots of trains and wagons, and an interview from Radio-Canada in China where showing the boss saying that they will copy those trains and eventually build their own and not buy those from Bombardier anymore. This is the China mentality. We can relax that they can’t copy the Cirque du Soleil creativity witch was in China to “upgrade” the local circus.

  2. Designer
    What is also quite obvious is the reason this complaint is being filed… it is the US’s only legal path to enforce trade regulations on China. Since China is flooding most markets with a high number of good quality cheap products, the US and many other countries cannot deal with that wave, they attempt to find a way to block it. Copyright infringement is just a front. It is simply a way to block trade with China without creating yet another diplomatic incident.
    The fact that Canada joins, is like you stated in your great article on the BBC, simply bending under pressure. We know that the US has a tendency to forget that its laws stop at its borders and you have summed it up very well here: “The Special 301 report typically identifies about 50 countries that the US has targeted for legal reform.”

  3. Confused
    I’m confused. Are you saying that Chinese run businesses are not responsible for large-scale copying and sale of cds and dvds?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Copying is not necesary bad. Actually, the US economy was exactly established on piracy and counterfeiting, mainly from Europe and the European civilization had also copied a lot of then advanced technologies of Asia. Even now the companies in Western countries are still copying the traditional knowledge such as traditional medicines and folklores of the developing world. Believe it or not, copying is also promoting the innovation and dissemination of technology and knowledge. When people care about the poverty problem exisitng in developing countries, why stop this natural process of learning there. In some sense, the bad thing is that people don’t know how to copy.