U.S. to tackle trade secret theft from China, others

WASHINGTON Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:15pm GMT

The White House is seen with the Washington Monument (L) behind it and the Jefferson Memorial (R) in Washington, May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

The White House is seen with the Washington Monument (L) behind it and the Jefferson Memorial (R) in Washington, May 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Hershorn

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Wednesday it will step up diplomatic pressure and study whether tougher laws are needed to stop a wave of trade secret theft from China and other countries in a strategy that offered few new ideas for dealing with the threat.

"Trade secret theft threatens American businesses, undermines national security and places the security of the U.S. economy in jeopardy," the White House said in a report that laid out its strategy. "These acts also diminish U.S. export prospects around the globe and put American jobs at risk."

"Emerging trends indicate that the pace of economic espionage and trade secret theft against U.S. corporations is accelerating," the White House warned in the report, which listed threats to corporate intellectual property from cyber attacks and more conventional methods of economic espionage.

The report did not specifically name any country as the main culprit. But it listed more than a dozen cases of trade secret theft by Chinese companies or individuals, far more than any other country mentioned in the report.

U.S. corporate victims of the Chinese theft included General Motors, Ford, DuPont, Dow Chemical and Cargill.

"For an economy like ours, that's going to win based on our innovation of what we produce and create, this is a critically important issue," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told Reuters in an interview ahead of the report's release.

The Obama administration released the strategy one day after a U.S. computer security company said it believed a secretive Chinese military unit was behind a series of hacking attacks.

China flatly denied the accusations made by the company, Mandiant, calling them "unprofessional." Its Defence Ministry said hacking attacks are a global problem and that China is one of the biggest victims of cyber assaults.

Victoria Espinel, the White House intellectual property rights enforcement coordinator, said the new strategy coordinates and improves existing U.S. government efforts to protect the innovation that drive the American economy and supports jobs in the United States.

Kirk said the problem of trade secret theft in China was a factor in the decisions by some U.S. companies to move operations back to the United States.

The companies have "had very frank conversations with the Chinese, (saying) 'you know it's one thing to accept a certain level of copyright knock-offs, but if you're going to take our core technology, then we're better off being in our home country," Kirk told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Bill Trott and Todd Eastham)

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