The White House aims to gather more data on how widespread the problem is and who is to blame.
“This is a shot across the bow to those companies. If you don’t clean it up, then the government will,” Trump’s trade advisor, Peter Navarro, told reporters.
The effort comes as major online marketplaces struggle to control the sale of fake products from third-party vendors. Peter said the White House will aim to gather more data on how widespread the problem is and who is to blame.
The administration will require a report within 210 days from the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce and Justice, according to the memorandum. It will analyse how widespread the problem is and how effective current responses are, while recommending potential regulatory or legislative changes to better combat the sale of fake goods.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published on Wednesday, Peter said Trump’s measure instructs the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with federal law-enforcement agencies working to combat counterfeiting. While Navarro did not give many specific details about how the White House would address the counterfeit problem, the memorandum serves as a warning to e-commerce companies.
In justifying the action, Peter cited part of a 2018 Government Accountability Office report showing widespread issues with counterfeiting. The agency’s investigators purchased brand name products from third-party vendors on sites such as Amazon, Walmart.com, Sears, Newegg.com and eBay and found 40% of the goods were fake.
“Our goal is to rightly shift the burden of trafficking to the supply chain and third party online marketplaces and intermediaries that right now are blanketing this country with dangerous products that cheat consumers out of billions of dollars a year,” Peter said.
Peter has denied that the memorandum had anything to do with the ongoing trade talks between the US and China, where another of the world’s biggest third party sellers, Alibaba, is based. He also denied that the measure, which targets Amazon, was in any way connected to Trump’s oft-stated disdain for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, an outlet that has reported extensively on Trump’s overseas businesses and the Mueller probe.