In anendorsement of the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA)inchoate anti-piracy strategy, the United States Trade Representative hasplaced Taiwan and Russia on its global Priority Watch List.

AmbassadorRobert Zoellick's Special 301 annual review, named after the section ofthe 1988 Trade Act that empowers the US to act against countries that block itsfilm, TV and video exports or allow them to be pirated, also elevated Poland toPriority status and announced that Thailand would remain on the less severeWatch List.

Countriessingled out by the trade representative could face a variety of retaliatoryactions including trade sanctions unless they improve standards of intellectualproperty protection.

AmbassadorZoellick's report was today (May 1) welcomed by the MPAA's chairmanand chief executive officer Jack Valenti, who said it was critical the US used'every resource in its power' to persuade countries to step up thefight against piracy.

Russia was citedas a particular cause for concern. The country has seen an explosion of illegaloptical disc factories - which the report said were mostly in the grip of organizedcrime - that are capable of producing more than 30 million discs a year.

Piracy levels inPoland were also said to be reaching a 'worrying level'. The MPAAhas said the continuing failure of the government there to tackle rampantpiracy at the infamous Warsaw Stadium was tantamount to state-sanctioned crime.

'Unlessthe Polish government acts urgently to deal with these issues in the nearfuture, Poland will become a safe haven for pirates right across the region,'Valenti said in a statement.

With thesituations in Taiwan and Thailand proving little better, Valenti urged thelegislatures in both countries to push through stringent anti-piracy measures.

In an ambiguously worded request, the MPAA called upon theUS administration to demonstrate that it will not provide Thailand withpreferential access to US markets as long as widespread manufacture and exportof illegal copies of US copyrighted works continued unabated.