A Chinese ambassador on Wednesday ripped into the US for an “attack” on Beijing’s candidate to head a UN agency that monitors and tracks intellectual property rights (IPR) such as patents, trademarks and industrial designs — a lucrative and crucial part of the growing digital age.
The showdown over the leadership of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) amounts to the latest face-off between the US and China.
The comments by Chinese Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Chen Xu (陳旭) laid bare rising tensions over an alleged US campaign to prevent veteran WIPO official Wang Binying (王彬穎) from becoming director-general of the agency.
“The United States is turning this election into a political game. The United States has no candidate of its own, yet it tries every means to block Ms Wang Binying and even takes this venture at its top diplomatic agenda,” Chen told reporters at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
“It is sad that the United States has gone so far as to warn some of the medium and small countries not to vote for China, or they will face consequences, such as weakened relations with the United States or losing the World Bank and IMF loans,” Chen added.
“The United States attack on China’s candidature, China’s contribution, in the areas of IPR, is not only unfair, it’s irrational,” he said.
A WIPO coordination committee is set to select its nominee for director-general at a closed-door meeting on Wednesday and Thursday next week, before the agency’s general assembly makes the final decision in May.
The assembly has never rejected a coordination committee nominee since the WIPO was created in 1967.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo two weeks ago said that the US was “tracking” the WIPO election “very, very closely.”
“We are going to make sure that whoever runs that organization understands the importance of enforcing intellectual property rights across nations and across boundaries,” he said on Feb. 13. “You should know that we’re engaged in lots of conversations to make sure that whoever is ultimately selected has respect for property rights, and the rule of law in the context of intellectual property rights.”
US Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro on Sunday went even further in a column in the Financial Times, saying that international intellectual property rules “underpin the innovation economy.”
“The US believes that giving control of WIPO to a representative of China would be a terrible mistake,” Navarro wrote. “China is responsible for 85% of counterfeits seized by US border officials; and Chinese IP[R] theft costs the American economy between [US]$225-[US]$600 billion annually.”
He alleged a Chinese “gambit to gain control over the 15 specialized agencies of the UN.”
He noted that China already has leadership of four of those, while no other nation leads more than one.
Chen dismissed that charge.
“It’s not our strategy to intentionally to seek the dominance in terms of numbers. It’s a natural process,” he said.
He also criticized the US for having “turned their back” on multilateral cooperation, citing withdrawals from international organizations such as UNESCO and the Human Rights Council.
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