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Tuesday, January 22, 2002
 Ukraine to rubberstamp piracy law, sanctions loom
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Message Text: Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma said on Tuesday he would sign only a watered-down law on compact discs aimed at fighting piracy and slammed the United States for sanctions on $75 million goods due to take effect on Wednesday. "Most likely, I will sign the bill approved by the parliament," Kuchma told reporters. All the laws take effect in Ukraine only after being signed by the president. The bill, which aims to regulate CD production in Ukraine, one of Europe's leading producers of pirated music goods, was rushed through parliament last week.

It was passed only after deputies amended a tougher government draft to exclude CDs that are transported through the country. They also relaxed stringent licensing requirements. U.S. and international recording industry officials have condemned the law as falling far short of what Ukraine needs to do to battle the piracy that globally costs their industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The $75 million in U.S. sanctions on Ukrainian metals, footwear and other goods are equal to what the country estimates it loses due to the piracy of music compact discs and other optical media products in Ukraine.

Pirated copies of CDs that sell for more $15 or more in Western Europe cost only about $3 in the capital Kiev. Ukrainian government officials have acknowledged the new bill might be unacceptable to U.S authorities. The United States is expected to impose sanctions as a result on January 23.

The U.S. trade representative's office in Ukraine has said it would closely examine the legislation before making any decision on cancelling sanctions. Kutchma slammed pressure by the United States, saying it was not being a good partner to Ukraine and making unfair demands.

Ukraine -- whose economic growth over the last two years has been driven by exports which make up half of gross domestic product -- has said sanctions would cost it about $470 million a year in export revenues and the loss of thousands of jobs. The U.S. decision could also prove a severe blow to the government plans to sustain economic recovery this year.

"The law the United States demands from us does not exist in any country in the world," he said. "Is this (imposing sanctions) cooperation or simply pressure?"
 
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