The Office of the US Trade Representative will file two complaints against China with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including one accusing the country of being lax on enforcing copyright, it has announced.

The first complaint is over the US view that China lacks enforcement of copyright and trademark protections, and the second complaint is over the view that China has trade barriers to US books, music, movies and videos.

Bilateral negotiations called ‘consultations’ are the first step in a WTO dispute. Under WTO rules, countries that do not resolve a matter through consultations within 60 days may request a WTO dispute settlement panel.

US Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, praised the decision to file a WTO complaint.

"We need to defend US companies against abuse and hold our trading partners to the commitments they made in joining the WTO," he said. "The ability to protect intellectual property is a hallmark of a mature economy and responsible trading partner."

WTO complaints should only be filed as a last resort after informal efforts fail, Grassley added. "American businesses and consumers stand to lose if we overreact," he said. "But when China continues to refuse to play by the rules, then we need to take strong action, like we're doing today."

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America also cheered the action. The complaint is a "serious, significant, and welcome step" by the US government, said Mitch Bainwol, the RIAA's chairman and chief executive. He called the unauthorised copying of music "pervasive" in China.