US adds AliExpress and WeChat to online fraud and piracy list

(Image credit: Future)

Chinese ecommerce sites owned by Alibaba and Tencent are among the latest facing a crackdown in the US over suspected online fraud.

The news follows the release of the Office of the United States Trade Representative annual report on "notorious markets" that "reportedly engage in or facilitate substantial trademark counterfeiting or copyright piracy". 

Over the past few years, the list has included a wide variety of Chinese companies and the 2021 report is no different, adding Alibaba's AliExpress and Tencent's WeChat among dozens of other entities. 

Useful leverage 

According to the US, these two platforms are "significant China-based online markets that reportedly facilitate substantial trademark counterfeiting". 

Overall, the USTR list 42 online markets and 35 physical markets as potential avenues for counterfeiting and copyright piracy. In addition to AliExpress and WeChat, Baidu Wangpan, DHGate, Pinduoduo, and Alibaba's Taobao continue to be listed after being added in recent years. 

The USTR began making its annual list in 2011 and since then it has proven a useful way to apply pressure to non-US companies to improve their practices. 

According to Robert Holleyman, who worked at USTR under Obama, "[the list] leads to sharing of best practices around how companies can deal with what’s going to be an ever-increasing challenge, which is the counterfeiters, the bad actors who are using these platforms." 

"The global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods undermines critical U.S. innovation and creativity and harms American workers," said Ambassador Katherine Tai. "This illicit trade also increases the vulnerability of workers involved in the manufacturing of counterfeit goods to exploitative labor practices, and the counterfeit goods can pose significant risks to the health and safety of consumers and workers around the world."

As China grows in strength, the US is using all possible tools to try and control or curtail the country. During his presidency, Trump went the furthest, applying huge tariffs on Chinese-made and imported goods. Since then, the relationship has deteriorated. 

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.