Alibaba questions blacklist

Updated 2016-12-23 08:56:09 Global Times

Company notes 'current political climate' as cause

Alibaba Group Holding on Thursday questioned a U.S. government decision to return the Chinese customer-to-customer marketplace to a blacklist of "notorious marketplaces."

Alibaba said it was "very disappointed" that its Taobao marketplace was put back on the U.S.' market blacklist. The company also suggested that the "current political climate" might have influenced the decision, according to a statement sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

Alibaba's comment came after the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced on Wednesday that it had put Alibaba's e-commerce website taobao.com back on the 2016 counterfeits blacklist, four years after the company was removed from the same register.

The USTR noted that taobao.com was "an important concern" due to the large volume of "allegedly counterfeit and pirated goods available and the challenges right holders experience in removing and preventing illicit sales and offers of such goods."

Alibaba's statement mentioned that the USTR's move ignored the progress the firm has made over the past four years, including the creation of a special team to crack down on counterfeit goods in 2015.

Following the USTR's action, Alibaba's CEO Zhang Yong immediately gave a pep talk to more than 2,000 staff employees via an internal letter, asking them to continue fighting against fake goods regardless of the blacklist.

"Our efforts [in cracking down on counterfeit goods] were not initiated for the sake of any lists and will not end because of any lists," Zhang said in the letter obtained by the Global Times on Thursday.

Alibaba said it has proactively removed more than 380 million product listings and closed approximately 180,000 Taobao stores in the 12 months ending August 2016, according to the USTR.

The USTR also acknowledged that Alibaba reportedly has taken steps to address intellectual property rights holders' concerns on taobao.com, and that such steps "set positive expectations for the future."

The USTR has issued a public roll of notorious markets since 2006, highlighting those that are engaging in violations of intellectual property and the sale of counterfeit goods.

Liu Dingding, an independent tech analyst, told the Global Times on Thursday that the incident could be a reflection of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's conservative policies as he tries to "protect" the U.S. economy from outside competition.

Trump has been critical of Sino-U.S. trade agreements, threatening to rip them up and impose high tariffs on Chinese imports, according to a Bloomberg report on Thursday.

"I think this Alibaba incident will be just a start," Liu said, adding that such exclusiveness would hurt the U.S. economy in the long term.

But he also noted that Alibaba's efforts to crack down upon counterfeit goods are still insufficient.

"Alibaba should speed up upgrading their business, otherwise the counterfeit goods problem will be a big constraint in the company's internationalization process," he noted.

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