U.S. pushes Russia in talks to close mp3 website

Russia should shut down a pirate music website that is robbing U.S. recording companies of sales if it wants to become a member of the World Trade Organization, the top U.S. trade official said on Wednesday.

"I have a hard time imagining Russia becoming a member of the WTO and having a website like that up and running that is so clearly a violation of everyone's intellectual property rights," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab told reporters after a speech to a services industry organization.

Schwab's call for the allofmp3.com website to be closed came as the United States and Russia are trying once again to reach a deal on Moscow's 13-year-old bid to join the WTO.

Those talks failed in July, primarily because of agricultural issues and U.S. concerns that Russia was not doing enough to stop piracy and counterfeiting of American goods.

Schwab's office earlier this year identified allofmp3.com as one the world's most notorious marketplaces for pirated goods. Last week, she singled out the website as the "poster child" for illegal music sales over the Internet.

U.S. and Russia officials will meet in Geneva next week for more negotiations. After the July talks failed, President George W. Bush and Russian Vladimir Putin set a new goal of finishing by the end of October.

"The dialogue is continuing. We're making progress slowly but steadily and we'll see if we can get there," Schwab said. "A WTO accession agreement with Russia is a high priority. There's no guarantee that we'll get it done."

However, she noted Putin has made positive statements about the importance of protecting intellectual property rights and Russia veterinary officials have visited the United States in an effort to resolve issues related to meat trade.

Russian Trade "Minister (German) Gref and I are committed to doing everything we can to try to conclude," Schwab said.

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