Ambassador Max Baucus: Fighting online counterfeiting together

Mission China Default Featured

Ten million US dollars per minute.  That’s how many goods were sold online during China’s most recent “Singles Day” on November 11.

In 2015, online retail sales to Chinese consumers reached an estimated $675 billion.  By 2020, China’s e-commerce market is expected to hit $1.1 trillion, cementing its status as the largest e-commerce market in the world.

Whether it’s on their phones, tablets, or computers, approximately 380 million Chinese consumers are shopping online.  And they are buying the branded mobile phones, designer jeans, running shoes, cosmetics, and many, many more top-quality products they know and love from around the world.  Estimates suggest that within ten years, over 50% of shopping here will be online.

This means new opportunities to bring consumers reliable, safe, and legitimate products at great prices.

However, it also means new opportunities for counterfeiters.  Counterfeiting is a global problem.

Criminals who used to sell fakes on street corners are now peddling these shoddy goods online.  Experts estimate that over $104 billion worth of fake goods are being sold online around the world every year.  In fact, as many as 1 in every 6 products sold online is fake.

This harms the reputation and sales of legitimate companies. And it damages the image of the platforms where these products are sold.  Consumers waste money on unreliable and potentially unsafe products.

We all have a responsibility to fix this problem. As the world’s largest e-commerce market, what is done – or not done – in China will have global ramifications.

Our two governments agreed last year at the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade to strengthen our collaboration in fighting fakes online – to enhance the systems in place and to find new ones.

But governments can’t do this alone.  Businesses must draw upon their expertise to help drive change.  I challenge all stakeholders to show us what can be accomplished when they lead.

Leadership is about working together to make real changes.  Those who represent global brands have practical experience fighting fakes.  They know what approaches have been tried and failed, and why.  They also know which have succeeded.

For example, more rigorous screening of products and sellers by platforms up front will help stop bad actors at the gates.

Better procedures for removing fake products, such as more streamlined cooperation with all brand owners, will halt bad actors who may have slipped through the cracks.

And increased information sharing on all sides will lead to improvements. When platforms share more information with brand owners and law enforcement, they are better positioned to take action.  When brand owners share information on how bad actors are trying to cheat the system, platforms receive the crucial data they need enhance their internal systems. This is collaboration, and it will work.

Most importantly, we all need to listen to each other.  Brand owners need to provide reasonable recommendations that work.  Platforms must listen and implement new measures in good faith.

Only by working together can we achieve success. Through our collective action, we will show that now is the time for deeds, not words.

That is why, at the end of this year, I plan to bring together industry leaders from both sides to share the most effective solutions they have developed.

I’m not expecting a silver bullet that will immediately eliminate fakes across every platform, but I hope we can show the world that the United States and China are working together as leaders in this global fight by developing and adopting practical and effective approaches.

Let’s start on that path today.

The Chinese version of this op-ed was published exclusively by jiemian.com.