The US defeated a Chinese bid to run the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as Washington seeks to convince nations of the threat posed by Beijing taking a more assertive role on the global stage.
The US-backed candidate, Daren Tang (鄧鴻森) of Singapore, on Wednesday won by a vote of 55-28 in Geneva, Switzerland, over Chinese candidate Wang Binying (王彬穎) among the governments voting for the leadership of the WIPO, which helps develop cross-border policies on intellectual property.
While the agency is relatively obscure, the leadership fight had become a crucial battleground in the bid by US President Donald Trump’s administration to counter China’s growing influence and assertiveness in international agencies and the UN.
The US Department of State had made it a top priority to stop China’s candidate from winning the election.
The fight underlines the growing intensity of the US-China rivalry even after the two nations reached a “phase one” trade agreement.
It was also a reversal of fortune after the US failed to stop a Chinese candidate from taking leadership of another UN specialized agency, the Food and Agricultural Organization. That prompted a new focus by the Trump administration to make its voice heard in multilateral organizations.
“Mr Tang is an effective advocate for protecting intellectual property, a vocal proponent of transparency and institutional integrity, and a leader who can unify WIPO member states by forging consensus on difficult issues,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Earlier, Pompeo had made clear Washington’s stance that a Chinese citizen must not be allowed to take the job.
US officials decried China’s history of intellectual-property theft, while US Ambassador to the UN Andrew Bremberg made the WIPO fight a top priority.
Writing in the Financial Times last week, US Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro said that China should not lead the WIPO because its commitment to protect intellectual property does not match Western standards.
He also accused China of wanting greater influence over the UN to advance its political objectives, such as isolating Taiwan.
Several candidates were running to lead the WIPO and succeed Francis Gurry, an Australian who has led the organization since 2008.
The US had backed Tang, the chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore who has a master’s degree from Georgetown University in Washington.
The fight between the US and China over the job got nasty, with Chinese officials arguing that the US was trying to suppress its rise.
Beijing accused the US of threatening to withhold World Bank and IMF money to countries that voted for the Chinese candidate, a claim the US denied.
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