By Khalil AlHajal

DETROIT, MI — U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak), along with U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) are seeking to have China designated as a country that endangers U.S. trade secrets.

The two congressman wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis asking for the “priority foreign country” designation, which could lead to the raising of import duties or a World Trade Organization case.

The letter cites a February study by an information security firm that identified a Chinese cyber theft organization known as “Ugly Gorilla,” staffed by hundreds, maybe thousands of hackers.

“It steals technology blueprints, proprietary manufacturing processes, test results, business plans, pricing documents, and partnership agreements,” the letter claims. “Once it infiltrates a victim’s network, it is able to maintain access for nearly a year, sometimes more.”

The study found that the theft organization has compromised 141 companies in 20 industries, in one case stealing 6.5 terabytes of data over a ten-month period.

The study linked the organization to the Chinese government.

Levin and Rangel, the top two Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee,

“It is difficult enough for our companies to compete with the endless massive subsidies and other industrial policies of the Chinese government, but add trade secret theft into the mix and it is miraculous that our companies are able to compete at all,” the congressman wrote in the letter.

“… We have known for some time that the government of China does not do enough to enforce the intellectual property of U.S. innovators in China.  But government-sponsored theft of trade secrets would put China in an entirely different category.”

(See the full letter here)

Concerns over China and the theft of trade and security secrets involving Detroit’s auto industry have risen a number of times in recent months.

In December, a Troy couple was convicted of stealing information on hybrid vehicle technology from GM for use by a competitor in China.

In January, the sale of lithium ion battery producer A123 Systems to a Chinese company prompted Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow to raise concerns over potential threats to national security.