China is still king of the global counterfeit trade

April 16, 2013
April 16, 2013

Counterfeit goods make up about 2% of world trade, worth about $250 billion a year, according to a report released today (April 16) on transnational crime in Asia by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC). And, 67% of those counterfeit products were manufactured in China (pdf, p. 122), according to data on goods seized worldwide between 2008 and 2010.

Global counterfeit trade, considered a “soft crime” by the UNODC, is made up of seemingly innocuous items like knock-off designer handbags and watches, but also includes more dangerous goods like fake medicine or toxic toys. Since its emergence as the world’s factory, China has developed a reputation for exporting fake, dangerous goods from pesticides, to fatal diet pillscold medicine and herapin, a blood thinner, that killed 81 in the US in 2008. Recently, US custom regulators have charged companies for selling counterfeit made-in China toys with dangerous levels of lead.

Chinese authorities have been trying to show they’re serious about cracking down on counterfeit manufacturing. In 2011, authorities arrested over 3,000 people and shut down almost 13,000 factories (pdf, p. 124) involved in the industry. Last year, authorities mandated that all government agencies use legally bought computer software.

Still, global trade in counterfeit goods, expected to top $1.7 trillion by 2015, is rising. Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam were other major exporters of counterfeit goods, the UNODC said.

Photo credit: Getty Images / David Silverman

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