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US report raps Alibaba's Taobao, others for pirated goods

© GETTY/AFP | Counterfeit handbags are among the billions of dollars in knock-off products imported each year, with China a major epicenter for sales of contraband, according to a new US government report

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

Alibaba's Taobao website and numerous public markets around the world were cited Friday as purveyors of hundreds of thousands of dollars in pirated goods in the US government's annual "notorious markets" review.

The report by the US Trade Representative spotlighted online venues that sell pirated goods, but also faulted physical markets in South and North America, Europe and Asia as spots where it was easy to purchase knockoff clothing, watches or perfume.

"Marketplaces worldwide that contribute to illicit trade cause severe harm to the American economy, innovation, and workers," USTR Robert Lighthizer said.

Imports of counterfeit and pirated goods are estimated at half a trillion dollars, or 2.5 percent of global imports, the USTR said.

In spite of some efforts by Alibaba to curb the sale of contraband products on Taobao.com, "the prevalence of infringing listings and sales continues to be a challenge," the report said.

US trade associations have complained about Taobao's lax record of taking down counterfeit goods, and emphasized the need for action "given the sheer size, global reach, and growth of Alibaba's network," the report said.

Businesses "continue to identify China as the primary source of counterfeit products," USTR said, pointing to public markets in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen as places where sellers can make counterfeit sales "with impunity."

But the report found violations outside of China as well, including the Swedish file-sharing site Pirate Bay.

Other physical markets listed included the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, where shops reportedly sell counterfeit handbags and wallets; the open-air "Friday Market" in Italy, where some 20,000 infringing articles are sold annually; and the Pacific Mall in Ontario.

"Vendors in Pacific Mall appear to operate largely with impunity, and requests for assistance from local law enforcement have reportedly gone unanswered," the report said.

© 2018 AFP