gram, which had worked favorably in the past, was not working by 1997, when a wave of pirated products began entering the country, according to Strong. On March 19, 1998, Strong had a visit with the American Ambassador concerning the growing piracy problem.
"Our situation in Singapore in the late 1990s was the same as that being experienced throughout Southeast Asia--an explosion of pirated VCDs," says Strong. According to Strong, the MPAA was involved in many big seizures in 1997 and 1998. One of the largest occurred on December 18, 1997, when 600 police officers, two armored personnel carriers, and four helicopters carried out a simultaneous raid in Malaysia. During the December raid, approximately 500,000 VCDs, CD-ROMs, and usic Ds were seized and two plants and eighteen distribution centers put out of business.
In May 1997, the MPAA became the first nongovernmental entity to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China Customs in response to the problem of VCDs. By late 1997, China Customs, virtually dormant until the Special 301 negotiations empowered it, was routinely seizing 500,000 and more optical VCDs a day.
The piracy problem that was largely under control by the early 1990s was widespread once again throughout Asia by the end of the 1990s. Nonetheless, the Special 301 investigation initiated on June 30, 1994 and ending on June 17, 1996 did much to contain the problem.
"To say that the trade dispute has undone the antipiracy work done in the past in Southeast Asia is incorrect," says Edwards. "In fact, the trade dispute has enhanced our position considerably. It has transferred the problem from China into a number of areas, where we have had success in the past in eradicating the piracy problem."
Perhaps the biggest winners in the Special 301 were the Chinese. China's huge trade surplus with the United States would have evaporated overnight had trade sanctions been imposed. In 1994, there were many Chinese leaders who were skeptical of the U.S. claims of widespread piracy, but by 1997 there was no one in the Chinese ministry who would have argued otherwise. The successful resolution of the problem aided U.S.-China diplomacy and would play a central role in furthering China's ambition of becoming a world economic power.