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US cites China's AliExpress, WeChat for selling counterfeit goods



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Washington - Chinese e-commerce sites AliExpress and WeChat were added to the US government's list of "notorious" markets amid complaints they trade in counterfeit goods, a practice that causes significant harm to American firms.

The list, released by the US Trade Representative (USTR) on Thursday, shines a light on markets Washington says "engage in, facilitate, turn a blind eye to, or benefit from substantial piracy or counterfeiting."

The 2021 Notorious Markets List identifies 42 online markets and 35 physical markets around the world, including other online platforms like China's Baidu Wangpan which made a return appearance, according to the USTR report.

"The global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods undermines critical US innovation and creativity and harms American workers," USTR Katherine Tai said in a statement.

"This illicit trade also increases the vulnerability of workers involved in the manufacturing of counterfeit goods to exploitative labor practices, and the counterfeit goods can pose significant risks to the health and safety of consumers and workers around the world."

China figures promiently on the list for both online and physical markets, and USTR said the country "continues to be the number one source of counterfeit products in the world."

The report noted that "counterfeit and pirated goods from China, together with transshipped goods from China to Hong Kong, accounted for 83 percent of the value... and 79 percent of the volume of counterfeit and pirated goods seized" by authorities in 2020.

AliExpress, owned by dominant e-commerce force Alibaba, where sellers "provide wholesale offerings and order fulfillment services for dropshipping retailers."

While USTR said the platform shares some tools with Alibaba, which has some of the "best anti-counterfeiting processes" in the online sales world, there was been a "significant increase" in fake goods sold on AliExpress as well as the number of sellers.

Alibaba also owns Taobao, one of China's largest e-commerce platforms, which has been on the notorious list since 2016, despite strides made by the parent company to improve anti-counterfeiting tools, the report said.

Meanwhile, USTR said WeChat is "viewed as one of the largest platforms for counterfeit goods in China," and cited "weaknesses in WeChat's seller vetting" and mild punishments against offenders.

WeChat, with over 1.2 billion active users around the world in 2021, is part of the Chinese tech giant Tencent, and offers a massively popular "super app" which includes social networking, messaging, e-commerce services and more.

USTR also recognized countries and markets that have made improvements, citing actions by authorities in Brazil, India, Thailand and others against manufacturers and streaming pirates. (AFP)