This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
Last week, the United States asked the World Trade Organization to help settle two trade disputes with China.
One of these involves the issue of intellectual property.
Books, magazines, movies, computer software -- intellectual property is all around us. Any property that can be legally protected against copying without permission can be considered intellectual property.
Copyright protects things like written materials and images and music. Forms of intellectual property like ideas, plans and designs can be protected by patents.
American officials say China is not doing enough to punish those who illegally copy American movies, music and software. United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab said "piracy and counterfeiting levels remain unacceptably high." She says this costs American companies and workers billions of dollars.
The motion picture industry estimates that movie piracy in China cost more than two and one-half billion dollars in lost sales in two thousand five alone.
The second dispute deals with barriers to trade in American books, music and movies in China. The United States says China limits imports of these products by requiring that they pass through state-owned or state-approved companies.
The Chinese government expressed what it called "great regret" at the American decision to go to the World Trade Organization. It says the action could harm trade relations between the two countries.
The first step now is a sixty-day period of negotiations to try to reach a settlement.
The United States has growing trade deficits with China. Last year the deficit reached a record two hundred thirty-three billion dollars.
But China says its monthly trade surplus with the world fell in March by more than seventy percent, to less than seven billion dollars. Experts, though, say the big drop may have been the result of one-time events.
Many American businesses say China fails to enforce laws against illegal copying of intellectual property. But not all businesses are expected to support the United States action at the World Trade Organization.
Groups representing the drug and software industries, for example, have entered into their own negotiations with Chinese officials. These groups are concerned that the cases now before the W.T.O. could interfere with their efforts.
And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. Transcripts and archives of our reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.