US blacklist of e-commerce sites ‘protectionism’

By Huang Ge Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/14 20:53:39

China’s increasing IPR efforts shouldn’t be ignored: experts


Alibaba Group headquarters in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province on July 20, 2017 Photo: IC

The US Trade Representative (USTR) on Friday put nine Chinese online and brick-and-mortar markets on its blacklist over sales of suspected counterfeit products, a move experts said showed "protectionism" as the US market was facing challenges from China's fast-growing e-commerce business.

Experts said that the US side should not ignore Chinese firms' increasing efforts for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection in recent years.

Alibaba Group Holding's online shopping platform taobao.com was included in the USTR's 2017 Notorious Markets List as one of 25 online markets, including three Chinese ones, along with 18 physical markets, six of which are in China.

The USTR put taobao.com on its blacklist for the second year in a row, citing "a high volume of infringing products reportedly continue to be offered for sale and sold on taobao.com and stakeholders continue to report challenges and burdens associated with IP enforcement on the platform."

As a result of the rise of trade protectionism, Alibaba has been turned into a scapegoat by the USTR in a highly politicized environment, the Chinese internet company said in a statement sent to the Global Times over the weekend.

The USTR's actions made it clear that the Notorious Markets List, which only targets non-US marketplaces, is not about IPR protection, but acts as another instrument to achieve the US government's trade policies, according to the statement.

Alibaba made using its IPR protection programs easier in 2017, leading to an 11 percent year-on-year increase in registries and a 25 percent drop in takedown requests as it removed infringing listings even before they reached its marketplaces, Alibaba Group President Michael Evans said in a post on the company's website.

"The blacklist is one of the US's international trade protectionist measures and a customary tactic by the country," Li Min, partner of Shanghai-based Hansheng Law Offices, told the Global Times on Sunday.

China's e-commerce business has expanded fast not only at home but also worldwide, which is hitting the US e-commerce sector, Li noted.

Since the USTR released its first Notorious Markets List in 2011, Chinese internet companies like Baidu Inc, sougou.com and JD.com Inc have at times appeared.

Year after year, big domestic e-commerce platforms such as taobao.com, JD.com and yhd.com, have been putting much focus on IPR protection because violations will hurt their reputations and operations, Li said.

As early as April 2015, JD.com announced that vendors who sell fake products on its platform may face fines of 2,000 percent of the vendor's sales volume or $10,000, according to media reports.

In June 2017, JD.com announced it was forming an alliance with Chinese  authorities including the Ministry of Agriculture and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, aiming to fight counterfeit goods by tracking products.

"But for small platforms, further regulations are needed," Li said, adding that requests for real name registration of enterprises and individuals are an effective way of offering IPR protection.

In addition to taobao, the two other Chinese markets on the blacklist are dhgate.com, an e-commerce website for exports, and TVPlus, TVBrowser and KuaiKan, three video clips app and add-on developers that are reportedly operated by related companies in China. The six Chinese brick-and-mortar markets on the list include the Beijing-based Silk Market and Hongqiao Market and Shenzhen-based Jindu Garment Wholesale Market in South China's Guangdong Province.

Experts noted that the USTR's blacklist is not meant only as a rebuke of specific Chinese markets but also targets China as a whole.

On April 28, 2017, the USTR released the 2017 Special 301 Report, as it kept China on the Priority Watch List with IPR protection concerns.

No country can completely avoid counterfeits, including the US, said Qiu Baochang, director of the Beijing Society of E-Commerce Law.

Rules, laws and penalties related to IPR protection in the Chinese market have been improved largely in the past decade, which is a fact that the US should respect, Qiu told the Global Times on Sunday.

"We will not try to run away from our remaining problems and authorities are expected to strengthen regulations on both online and offline markets," Qiu said.

China gives high priority to IPR protection and has taken many effective steps to deal with the situation, with universally recognized progress, the Ministry of Commerce said in response to the Special 301 Report in May 2017.



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