A memorandum was signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday to combat the sale of bogus products through online platforms such as Alibaba, Amazon and eBay.
“This president has decided it’s time to clean up this wild west of counterfeiting and trafficking,” said Peter Navarro, assistant to the president and director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.
Although Trump’s move takes no immediate action against makers and sellers of fake products — ranging from pharmaceutical drugs to brand-name athletic shoes — it does direct the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with the Attorney General, the U.S. Trade Representative and the Commerce Department, as well as other federal agencies, to jointly investigate the problem and submit a report with recommendations within 210 days.
“We simply don’t know how much counterfeiting is going on,” according to Navarro.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call Wednesday, Navarro estimated that up to half of the branded goods online are fake.
Customs and Border Protection does not have enough personnel to properly police the flood of illicit goods, including dangerous opioids, pouring into the United States via online sellers, according to Navarro.
“If you don’t clean it up, the government will,” Navarro warned the online platforms, which he says are responsible for selling an estimated half-trillion dollars’ worth of counterfeit products annually.
The frequently seized imported fakes are items of footwear, followed by clothing, leather goods and IT equipment, according to a survey of customs officials in numerous countries. Postal parcels are the most popular way to ship counterfeit and pirated products.
Besides cheating consumers out of billions of dollars, Navarro says the illicit products pose a national security threat because they are slipping into the military supply chain.
In a statement, the top online U.S. retailer, Amazon, said it “invests heavily in proactive measures to prevent counterfeit goods from ever reaching our store.”
Alibaba, the world’s most popular destination for online shopping, says it has “developed best-in-class systems to protect IP and battle the scourge of counterfeiting.” The Chinese company adds that it welcomes the initiative “and the attention it brings to the global fight against counterfeiting.”
China is the top producer of fake goods in nine out of 10 categories, including the most popular category, footwear, where as much as 27 percent of all goods seized could be traced back to the country, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Union’s intellectual property (EUIPO).
Asked by a reporter if this has been raised during ongoing U.S.-China trade talks, Navarro responded, “There’s no relation of this to that.” (VOA)
Hundreds of employees are openly criticizing Amazon’s record on climate change despite what they say is a company policy that puts their jobs at risk for speaking out.
On Sunday, more than 300 employees of the online retail giant signed their names and job titles to statements on blog post on Medium. The online protest was organized by a group called Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, an advocacy group founded by Amazon workers that earlier this month said the company had sent letters to its members threatening to fire them if they continued to speak to the press.
“It’s our moral responsibility to speak up, and the changes to the communications policy are censoring us from exercising that responsibility,” said Sarah Tracy, a software development engineer at Amazon, in a statement.
Amazon said that its policy on external communications is not new and is in keeping with other large companies. It said the policy applies to all Amazon employees and is not directed at any specific group.
“While all employees are welcome to engage constructively with any of the many teams inside the company that work on sustainability and other topics, we do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems,” according to a spokesperson from the company.
Amazon, which relies on fossil fuels to power the planes, trucks and vans that ship packages all over the world, has an enormous carbon footprint. And its workers have been vocal in criticizing some of the company’s practices.
Last year, more than 8,000 staffers signed an open letter to CEO and founder Jeff Bezos demanding that it cut its carbon emissions, end its use of fossil fuels and stop its work with oil companies that use Amazon’s technology to locate fossil fuel deposits.
The company said in a statement that it is passionate about climate change issues and has already pledged to become net zero carbon by 2040 and use 100% renewable energy by 2030. (VOA)