Ministry cracks down on counterfeit exports

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China's Ministry of Commerce said on Friday that eight major exporting regions have been ordered to set out specific plans to crack down on the export of pirated and counterfeit products to African nations.

The move is designed to contain an issue which has the potential to harm further economic cooperation between the two sides.

The ministry, which is heading a six-month campaign to combat infringements of intellectual property rights (IPR), summoned commerce directors from eight regions to discuss the issue.

"To clamp down on counterfeit commodities in China's exports to Africa is a crucial part of the whole campaign," said Jiang Zengwei, vice-minister of commerce and also director of the national leadership team of the six-month campaign.

The eight regions include Beijing and Shanghai municipalities, as well as the provinces of Jiangsu, Guangdong and Zhejiang.

According to the ministry, the local governments are required to investigate large-scale, high-profile cases and expose them to the public as a warning to illegal manufacturers and traders. Each region has been told to produce a plan of action and a schedule for the campaign.

The move followed a pledge by eight major Chinese export associations on Thursday to prevent counterfeit products being exported to Africa.

China emerged as the continent's largest trading partner in 2010, outpacing the European Union and the United States.

Last year, bilateral trade jumped to a record US$126.9 billion, with Chinese investment exceeding $1 billion, according to the ministry.

However, counterfeit products have often been found among the growing number of Chinese exports to Africa. Most of these fake products were discovered in the areas of textiles, medicine, electrical appliances and food. As such, they have the potential to hinder the future development of the Sino-African economic relationship, according to experts.

The Beijing-based magazine, Africa, said data from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers showed that counterfeit products cost Kenyan businesses more than US$650 million in 2008 alone, in addition to lost taxes totaling $250 million. Most of these commodities were made in China, according to the report.

"Low-quality Chinese products in the African market have been a long-standing issue and the reasons are complicated," said Yang Lihua, director of the Center of Southern African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"People in Africa with low incomes prefer lower-priced goods, but those prices often result in goods of poorer quality," she explained.

Chen Deming, China's minister of commerce, said on Friday, during the final day of his visit to Morocco, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana, that China will further boost bilateral trade with Africa and promote the export of quality products to the region, according to an interview with the Xinhua News Agency.

"China will expand its imports of high value-added merchandise from Africa while encouraging large-scale Chinese enterprises to set up logistic hubs in the continent," Chen said.

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