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OECD highlights alarming rise in counterfeit goods trade

Translated by
Nicola Mira
today Mar 20, 2019
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In 2016, the trade in counterfeit and pirated products was worth $509 billion, equivalent to 3.3% of the world’s trade volume, compared to 2.5% in 2013, according to a report published on Monday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office. The increase is all the more “significant”, according to the two organisations, as it comes at a time when world trade is slowing down.

Archive picture - REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

In the EU alone, the incidence of counterfeit and pirated products was even higher, and was estimated at 6.8% of imports in 2016, compared to 5% in 2013, for a value of $121 billion (€134 billion).

These results simply reflect figures referring to customs seizures - excluding counterfeit products consumed in the countries they are produced in, and digital content pirated on the web - and were labelled as “alarming” by OECD and EUIPO, which are calling on public authorities to work harder to fight this “scourge.”

The companies affected by this problem are chiefly located in OECD countries: nearly 24% of them in the USA, 16.6% in France, 15.1% in Italy, 11.2% in Switzerland and 9.3% in Germany.

Companies from Japan, Korea and the UK are affected too, though to a lesser degree, while counterfeiting and piracy are also “increasingly a concern for companies operating in developed economies that aren’t OECD members,” such as Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as in emerging economic giants like China or Brazil, according to the report.

Even though fake products come “from virtually all countries and all continents,” mainland China remains the world’s leading counterfeit goods exporter (47% of seizures), ahead of Hong Kong (16.4%) and India (3.4%).

The goods in question are mostly consumer products (footwear, cosmetics, toys), luxury articles (fashion accessories, luxury watches), high-tech products like smartphones, batteries, and even spare parts or industrial chemicals.

Besides the “loss of earnings for private companies and public institutions,” the trade in counterfeit products “fuels other criminal activities” and also constitutes a “real danger for the health and safety of consumers,” said Marcos Bonturi, director of public governance at OECD, cited in a press release.

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