The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) has praised the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) following the release of its Special 301 Review, which identifies countries that fail to protect intellectual property (IP) rights on goods, including apparel and footwear.
The latest annual “Special 301” Report conducted by the USTR has reviewed more than 100 trading partners and placed 27 of countries on the Priority Watch List or Watch List.
There are seven countries on the Priority Watch List due to being the most significant concerns in terms of insufficient IP protection or enforcement.
The seven countries are:
These countries will be the subject of intense bilateral engagement during the coming year. The Special 301 review of Ukraine has been suspended.
Apparel, footwear, travel goods, and related products are regularly found on official lists of counterfeit product seizures and the AAFA submitted written comments in January as part of the USTR’s review process for this report.
Steve Lamar, president and CEO of AAFA said counterfeits were flourishing and endangering consumers and workers around the globe every day.
He said: “In fact, AAFA members continue to report the pandemic significantly hampers global enforcement efforts.“
He added: “The AAFA has appreciated the constructive dialogue with USTR to ensure that intellectual property protection and enforcement against counterfeit and pirated goods remain a top priority in America’s trade relationships to protect creativity and innovation and support jobs across the country. We thank USTR for considering the experiences of our members in this review process.”
AAFA’s Jennifer Hanks, director, brand protection pointed out that she hopes countries will rededicate efforts and resources to protecting American intellectual property rights.”
She said: “Many of the countries AAFA has identified in this submission are vital trading partners and the largest sources for the US apparel and footwear industry in producing legitimate US-branded goods. Thus, we must not disrupt legitimate trade; however, we must find ways to identify areas of needed improvement to protect American jobs and economic opportunity across our country, as AAFA members are in nearly every state.”
USTR ambassador Katherine Tai said: “Intellectual property-intensive industries support more than 60 million jobs – from the independent inventor just starting out to the documentary filmmaker studying critical social issues. We need robust protection and enforcement in foreign countries to protect these individuals, their livelihoods, and ensure they can fairly compete in the global marketplaces.
“Following extensive input from a broad range of stakeholders, the 2022 Special 301 Report identifies trading partners that are falling short. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to engage with these trading partners to level the playing field for our workers and businesses.”
The US is closely monitoring China’s progress in implementing its commitments under the United States-China Economic and Trade Agreement (Phase One Agreement), USTR said in its official statement. In 2021, USTR said China enacted amendments to the Patent Law, Copyright Law, and Criminal Law, as well as other measures aimed at addressing IP protection and enforcement.
USTR said right holders have welcomed these developments, but continue to raise concerns about the adequacy of these measures and their effective implementation, as well as about long-standing issues like bad faith trademarks, counterfeiting, and online piracy. Also, USTR noted, statements by Chinese officials that tie IP rights to Chinese market dominance continue to raise strong concerns.Earlier this week (27 April) a coalition of industry groups, including the AAFA, penned a letter urging Congress to pass legislation to stop the sale and promotion of counterfeits online.