Alibaba back on U.S. blacklist for selling counterfeit goods online

WASHINGTON - China e-commerce giant Alibaba Group (BABA) is back on the U.S. government’s annual list of “notorious markets” that sell pirated goods.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative says Alibaba’s online marketplace Taobao sells “high levels of counterfeit” goods and is slow to respond when companies complain that its vendors are selling knockoffs. 

Being on the list carries no penalties, but is potentially harmful to its ongoing efforts to gain more international customers. Right now, just 5 percent of Alibaba’s sales are outside of China, but its founder, Jack Ma, has said he wants to boost that figure to 40 percent in a decade.

The agency placed the e-commerce company on its list late Wednesday, and Alibaba shares slid 3 percent to $86.74 right after stock trading opened in the U.S. on Thursday before nudging up soon afterward. 

USTR took Alibaba off the blacklist in 2012, but several U.S. trade groups successfully sought to get it reinstated.

Alibaba Group President Michael Evans says the company is “disappointed.” He says the company is policing vendors more effectively than it was four years ago.

Evans questioned whether the USTR decision was “based on actual facts or was influenced by the current political climate.” During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump blasted China for stealing intellectual property, for instance.