Nearly 100 aftermarket and OE automotive suppliers gathered in a small conference room at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, Mich. Wednesday. They came to talk about counterfeit parts. They came to talk about China.
China is the largest source by far of counterfeit auto parts–parts produced offshore and branded in a way to masquerade as the original equipment part. A pie chart of the source of counterfeit parts portrayed China as the Pac-Man of parts counterfeiting.
"China manages to keep its 1 billion citizens from having free access to the Internet. They have people standing at Internet caf’s monitoring what is going on," said Mike Castellano, Tax and Trade Council, Office of Sander Levin.
"They have the will and resources to shut things down at will. It think we should all lose patience with China on some of these issues."
While the World Trade Organization meetings in Cancun were largely a failure due to stonewalling by the European Union, Castellano did provide some hope that change is possible.
He painted a picture of a meeting with the Third World countries wanted to have both the first and second worlds open their borders freely while they were allowed to maintain their barriers. “That is just not politically acceptable in the U.S.," he said, which is good news.
"Counterfeiting is not completely off the radar screen. There is a tendency to think of intellectual property in terms of media and pharmaceuticals. It is now being recognized as an issue in manufacturing."
The issue is made more difficult when it is the non-compliance of voluntary standards being charged against imported product. "An industry solution may be more relevant as opposed to a legal solution.
That is not the same as patent infringement. "We are open to ideas on how to strengthen the legal framework. There is a lot of focus [in Washington] right now on manufacturing. If you can clarify this issue, there is the possibility of action in the short term.
"There is also a lot of focus on China trade relations. The focus on China and the focus on manufacturing are certainly feeding off each other," said Castellano.
Other attendees pointed out various methods to protect against counterfeiting, but it is clear that a firm stance against China, as the source for the vast majority of these parts, is considered to be perhaps the most important tool.
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