China has promised to pursue product pirates identified by U.S. authorities in a new effort to stamp out its thriving counterfeit industry, the head of the U.S. customs agency said Friday.
The agreement comes amid mounting concern that Chinese pirates are endangering public safety in the United States and elsewhere by selling fake medicine and other goods.
China accounted for about 80 percent of the 14,775 shipments of counterfeit goods seized at U.S. ports last year, said W. Ralph Basham, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Under a memorandum of cooperation signed this week, U.S. Customs will provide China with information on the source of seized goods, and Beijing will report back within 90 days on the status of efforts to track down the counterfeiters, Basham told reporters.
"We've got to start dealing with the source of the problem. We can't expect to rely upon interdiction to be our tool in order to stop these products," Basham said.
China has long been the world's leading source of illegally copied goods ranging from designer clothes to movies and music. But concern about possible danger to the public has risen following the discovery of a toxic chemical in Chinese-made toothpaste.
Basham said his talks with Chinese officials did not touch on tainted products, which he said was the responsibility of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He said the FDA was in touch with Chinese officials.
Basham said American officials offered China help with security for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He said that might include support from a U.S. program used at several foreign airports to identify travelers who might be barred from the United States.