HONG KONG — The American Apparel & Footwear Association is not letting up in its criticism of Alibaba Group.
Juanita Duggan, president and chief executive officer of the AAFA, touched down here Tuesday to speak at an American Chamber of Commerce luncheon and kick off the inaugural edition of AAFA’s Hong Kong executive summit. While her speech covered a variety of topics — including the implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the importance of safe working conditions in Bangladesh — she reserved much of her time to take swipes at the Chinese e-commerce giant and reiterating the AAFA’s stance that Alibaba is not doing enough to fight the sale of counterfeit products on its Taobao platform.
“In an official filing, Alibaba stated that we, AAFA, are asking them to change the fundamental aspects of their business model. Well that’s true only if counterfeits are their business model,” Duggan told the group. “I fail to understand why [Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma] and his associates do not see cleaning up Alibaba’s site as in their best interest.”
During her talk, Duggan criticized the e-commerce giant and its product listing and delisting procedures, describing them as a “broken system.” She said members of the AAFA have lamented laborious and bureaucratic steps involved in registering official brand names on Taobao and the process of filing complaints for fake product listings. She called these problems “nightmarish” and said brands are frustrated because they want to do business on Taobao to reach new consumers.
“No one in our industry believes that Alibaba’s process offers any protection,” she said. “All of this opaque, convoluted catch-22 process falls on the brand.”
In response, an Alibaba spokesman said the AAFA has refused to meet at the “working level” to address specific issues.
“We remain committed to the protection of intellectual property rights and the long-running battle to eradicate counterfeit merchandise that may appear on our marketplaces,” the Alibaba spokesman said.
Elsewhere, Duggan warned that the current political climate in the United States in the lead up to the 2016 presidential elections is prone to gridlock and volatility. She said people should not expect significant changes or progress in policy, particularly Congress’ passage of TPP.
“Fierce partisanship is the new normal in Washington. Do not expect this election to change that,” she said. “Given all the dynamics and the pressures of the 2016 election, this [Congressional] vote is not likely to happen until a year from now, if not later on. Even if it is passed by Congress, it could take several years before it is fully implemented,” she said, adding that all the other participating countries will need to ratify the agreement.
“During that process, AFAA is going to be at the table and we’re going to be forceful and we’re going to fight to articulate what our industry needs out of this debate,” she said.