The Trade Dispute with the People's
Republic of China
On April 15, 1997, Lee Sands, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Japan and China, and Deborah Lehr, Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China and Mongolia, resigned from the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
The unexpected joint resignation brought an informal close to a confrontational stage in U.S. efforts to ensure adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights in China. Both Sands and Lehr left the government to join their mentor, former USTR Mickey Kantor, as consultants at a Washington, D.C. law firm.
From June 30, 1994 until June 17, 1996, Sands and Lehr were the lead negotiators for the United States in the Special 301 trade investigation initiated by the USTR into the piracy of American-made intellectual property--notably sound recordings, motion pictures and computer software--by the People's Republic of China. The investigation also involved market access for those products and trademark protection.
The investigation, which began on June 30, 1994, ended with the signing of an agreement on February 26, 1995. The failure of the Chinese government to abide by the terms of the 1995 Agreement led to the signing of another agreement on June 17, 1996. The trade dispute riveted national attention on the piracy problem in China, and on the Special 301 trade investigation that nearly led to the imposition of trade sanctions in 1995 and 1996. In both years a trade war between the United States and China was avoided by the signing of an agreement regarding protection of intellectual property.
The trade dispute spotlighted the political power of the USTR to investigate unfair trading practices and to impose trade sanctions. The