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U.S. Puts Alibaba’s Taobao Back on Piracy Market Blacklist

The U.S. government has put Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce platform, back on its blacklist of marketplaces for counterfeit goods. The company hit back, suggesting that the move was politically-driven.

The spat points to a rising number of trade and economic difficulties between China and the U.S.

In its latest report on “Notorious Markets” the U.S. Trade Representative put Alibaba’s Taobao online trade platform back on its blacklist after previously removing it from the list in 2012.

The report said that the problems with Taobao are “large volume of allegedly counterfeit and pirated goods available,” and “the challenges right(s) holders experience in removing and preventing illicit sales and offers of such goods.”

While the USTR report acknowledged efforts by Alibaba to clean up the platform – including the removal of 380 million product listing sin the year to August – it said that its newly introduced Good Faith program represented double standards. “The Good Faith Program reportedly remains out of reach for the vast majority of right holders, particularly SMEs, due to stringent eligibility criteria that must be met and maintained over a period of time,” it said.

“In 2016 alone, we proactively removed more than double the number of infringing product listings than in 2015. It is therefore unreasonable for the USTR to have concluded that Alibaba is less effective in anti-counterfeiting than when it reviewed our efforts in 2015 and when it removed us from its list four years ago,” wrote Alibaba Group President, Michael Evans in a letter published on the company website.

“Unfortunately, the USTR’s decision leads us to question whether the USTR acted based on the actual facts or was influenced by the current political climate.”

The political-economic atmosphere between China and the U.S. has already darkened in the weeks since the Nov. 8 election of Donald Trump as the next President.

Trump’s comments about China the “One China Policy,” and the recent drone incident in the South China Sea have angered Chinese politicians. Similarly, Chinese acquisitions of U.S. business assets, particularly in Hollywood, has become a mainstream topic of discussion in Washington D.C.

It remains to be seen whether Trump will make good on his campaign promise to label China as a currency manipulator. But his appointment on Wednesday of economist Peter Navarro to head a newly formed White House National Trade Council points to more economic clashes between the world’s two largest economies. Navarro is the author of several books that criticize China’s economic and military policy and their impact on the U.S., including one called “Death by China.”

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