I recently returned from my annual copyright and intellectual property (IP) enforcement trip to China.
On this occasion, I was fortunate to visit Wuhan, a city famous for its hot summers and even hotter food. Positioned in the centre of China, Wuhan is a beautiful city of rivers, lakes and sprawling university campuses.
Wuhan sits on the banks of the mighty Yangtze River and for centuries has been an important trading hub. The Yangtze retains a role in international trade today, with containers heading downstream towards ports such as Shanghai, on China’s east coast.
But trade in modern Wuhan is about far more than river traffic. The airport was full of advertisements for a new direct flight connection with the UK. The service launched last month by carrying a business delegation from the Northern Powerhouse on the first flight to Wuhan.
Wuhan is also proud of its freight train service, connecting central China to European cities including London. I visited the train freight terminal with Nick Whittingham, the British Consul General in Wuhan.
Nick is looking forward to breaking down trade barriers, cutting ribbons, and showcasing UK exports delivered via the train service. I was keen to learn about the customs and other IP enforcement checks, which will ensure markets in both our countries fully benefit from these expanding trade routes.
Cross-border IP enforcement was also a key theme of my central government meetings in Beijing. I was delighted when a senior official in the Chinese Ministry of Public Security told me:
there are no barriers to enhanced UK-China cooperation on IP enforcement.
I agree. There is so much more we can do to reduce the negative impacts of IP crime, but we can only succeed if we do it together. I believe we made significant progress towards that aim during this trip and will be working on the details with relevant parties in the coming weeks.
Our approach is straightforward - we work constructively with China to tackle the threat from cross-border, criminal networks that operate in both our countries. We in the UK have a responsibility to take action against criminals operating within our borders, and we will support China with enforcement there. By pooling information, we can better identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises.
With the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC), I agreed to deepen bilateral exchanges on protection for live sports broadcasts and copyright protection in mobile applications. I was also delighted to meet with a publishers delegation in Beijing and agree follow up work with my Chinese counterparts to address some of the enforcement challenges faced by academic and trade publishers.
Breakthroughs such as this are possible due to a sustained investment in our bilateral relationships. This was my seventh visit to China in four years and the trust and familiarity we have established is leading to progress.
I finished my trip with a day in Hong Kong, meeting with officials and creative industry representatives. Hong Kong is a centre for trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific, and I am pleased that the UK is supporting many of the IP initiatives in the region.
Hong Kong was where I first learnt of the negative impact Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs) can have on the creative industries, so it was good to receive an update on the enforcement action being taken against those selling the devices.
On the way back to the airport I passed Hong Kong’s huge and busy container port, a reminder of the global trading opportunities on offer to British companies.
As you look towards global markets, I would encourage all UK businesses to reach out to our excellent IP attaché network in China, Southeast Asia, India and South America. The attachés are an excellent resource for UK companies, whether you are looking for ‘know-before-you-go’ advice or have more detailed questions about local IP policy.