WASHINGTON — U.S. trade officials wrapping up a high-level dialogue with their Chinese counterparts in Guangzhou, China, on Monday said China has agreed to participate in a public-private sector dialogue to address online counterfeiting.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said they reached an agreement in several areas, including a new vehicle intellectual property enforcement in discussions with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and other government officials as part of the 26th session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.
“This year’s JCCT produced meaningful progress on some key issues facing a range of U.S. stakeholders,” said Froman. “We obtained firm commitments from China in the areas of competition law, intellectual property protection, standards setting and environmental conservation that will level the playing field for our companies in China.”
“China is our largest export market outside North America, and it continues to be one of the most important drivers of economic growth in the world, despite a recent slowing in its rapid expansion,” Froman added. “The benefits of these market-opening outcomes will be felt throughout our country in industries that support well-paying jobs.”
U.S. trade officials said China agreed to “a number of IPR-related commitments that will facilitate much-needed improvements in a wide range of industries that rely on the ability to protect and enforce their IPR in China.”
“In recognition of several recent developments to address challenges faced by online counterfeiting, China agreed to participate in a government-industry dialogue to enhance the systems available to address these challenges and increase information-sharing and cooperation on cross-border enforcement between our two countries,” USTR said.
The U.S. has been stepping up pressure on China to address online counterfeiting, citing concerns in a pair of high-profile watch lists earlier this year.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association has been leading the charge on behalf of U.S. brands for increased U.S. government scrutiny of counterfeits on Alibaba’s online marketplace, Taobao, calling for the e-commerce platform to be relisted on a government watch list known as “Notorious Markets” that identifies online and physical marketplaces said to be hubs for counterfeits and digital piracy. AAFA has argued that counterfeits are increasing on Taobao and hurting U.S. companies.
U.S. trade officials have said they are growing concerned about the recent allegations of counterfeiting and digital piracy on Alibaba’s consumer-to-consumer platform, despite assurances and commitments made by Taobao to address the concerns raised by stakeholders and remove millions of listings of counterfeits and pirated products. However, U.S. officials did not call out or name any specific Chinese online marketplaces in relation to the problems or new commitments China made on Monday.
More broadly, China and the U.S. will step up engagement and exchanges between U.S. and Chinese government IPR policy and enforcement officials, IP rights holders, business executives and online sales-platform operators to “address the civil, administrative and criminal enforcement challenges caused by the rapid development of e-commerce.”
The countries have committed to discussing “current and anticipated challenges in protecting and enforcing IPR online by sharing respective practices, discussing possible improvements in each country’s systems, facilitating information exchange and training between our two countries, and increasing cooperation on cross-border enforcement.”
They said the goal is to enhance existing legal and cooperative regimes among businesses, rights holders and government in civil, administrative and criminal online IPR enforcement. Criminal cases will be referred when warranted to law enforcement agencies through a joint IP criminal enforcement working group or domestic law enforcement officials.
“As one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in the world, China presents valuable opportunities to reach hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers who have a growing interest in and ability to purchase U.S.-branded goods online,” U.S. trade officials said. “However, it also presents challenges in ensuring that the millions of transactions taking place every day involve safe, reliable and legitimate goods. Preventing the online sale of pirated and counterfeit goods is a high priority for both the United States and China.”