Alibaba said yesterday it was "very disappointed" that Taobao, its popular retail website, had been put back on a US list of "notorious markets." Despite the decision, the company said it would be continuing its efforts to combat counterfeit products.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative removed the platform from its annual list four years ago, but included it in its latest release, saying it was not doing enough to curb sales of "fake and pirated goods."
Taobao was put on the list in 2011 but removed the following year after it addressed intellectual property rights concerns and pledged to cut the number of pirated and counterfeit goods on the site.
In a statement accompanying the publication of its Notorious Market List for 2016, the US office said: "The Taobao.com e-commerce platform is an important concern due to the large volume of allegedly counterfeit and pirated goods available and the challenges rights holders experience in removing and preventing illicit sales and offers of such goods."
Taobao was one of 21 online markets on the list, which included file-sharing websites Pirate Bay and 4Shared.com, and a number of video streaming sites.
Alibaba Group President Michael Evans said yesterday: "We are very disappointed by the USTR's decision to include Taobao on its Notorious Markets List, which ignores the real work Alibaba has done to protect IP rights holders and assist law enforcement to bring counterfeiters to justice. Our results speak for themselves.
"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."
He added: "In 2016 alone, we proactively removed more than double the number of infringing product listings than in 2015."
Daniel Zhang, Alibaba's chief executive officer, said its effort to crack down on counterfeits "would not stop in order to be removed from that list or any other list."
In its statement, the US office said: "While recent steps set positive expectations for the future, current levels of reported counterfeiting and piracy are unacceptably high."
It said counterfeit and pirated goods posed a grave economic threat to creative and innovative industries in the US and undermined the Chinese and global market for legitimate US products. Substandard counterfeits such as auto parts also posed potential risks to the safety of unsuspecting consumers, it added.
It acknowledged, however, that the company had taken steps to combat piracy, including addressing the misuse of brand keywords and blurred trademarks in images, and that it was developing technology to prevent counterfeit sellers reopening under different names.
Although inclusion on the blacklist carries no penalty, the listing comes as a blow to Alibaba as it strives to improve its image and boost international sales against competition from sites such as eBay and Amazon.
Asked about the US move during a regular press briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she hoped any trade disagreements with the US could be solved "in a proper way through friendly consultations."