Lawmakers Raise Concerns About a China-Led World Intellectual Property Organization 

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As WIPO searches for a new leader, U.S. lawmakers worry about China’s nomination. 

Four lawmakers raised concerns regarding China’s intent to lead the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization.  

In a letter penned to President Trump Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif. and Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., warn that a China-led WIPO could endanger the United States’ economic security and pose a threat to IP rights and standards across the globe. The Congress members call on Trump to oppose the country’s recent nomination for the WIPO’s next director general and push international partners to do the same.

"Given China's persistent violations of intellectual property protections, including through trade secret theft, corporate espionage, and forced transfer of technology, the United States and its allies must stand firmly against such a move," they wrote.

In mid-November, the People’s Republic of China’s State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs formally nominated Binying Wang to serve the six-year term as WIPO’s next director general. According to the nomination letter and corresponding CV submitted, Wang received a bachelor’s degree in English, Communication and Transportation from China’s Zhongnan University in the 1970s. In the 1980s, she received a diploma in American Commercial Law from Columbia Law School in New York and a master’s degree on U.S. law, including industrial property law, from the University of California, Berkeley’s law school. After spending a few years working for China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce, Wang joined WIPO in 1992. Since then, she’s served as senior counselor of the Office of the Director General and assistant director general, among a variety of other executive WIPO positions. Wang was appointed as the organization’s deputy director general in 2009, charged with overseeing trademarks and designs—and continues to work in that capacity today. 

“She is entirely able to guide the organization to continue working for a balanced and effective international intellectual property system, contribute to the attainment of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and meet the expectations of all WIPO member states,” the nomination letter said. 

Though the lawmakers do not note Wang’s educational experience in America and ongoing decades-long stint at WIPO, they argue against the country leading the organization as its “aggressive industrial policies … include a patchwork of practices and tactics which coerce American companies to transfer their technology and intellectual property to domestic Chinese corporations with the effect of undermining U.S. innovation and economic leadership.” They note that the Trump administration has repeatedly raised similar concerns around the nation’s IP regime and emphasize that at the United Nations General Assembly in September, the president also expressly accused China of “‘theft of intellectual property and also trade secrets on a grand scale.’”

Further, the Congress members also note that the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei—which has been banned and legislated against by U.S. leaders over fears that its spying for the Chinese government—filed the most international patent applications to WIPO in 2018. 

"We cannot let a regime, which continues to blatantly undermine the rules-based system by failing to ensure open markets or respect for intellectual property rights, ascend as the leader of global intellectual property policy," the lawmakers wrote. 

Nominations for the director general election will remain open until Dec. 30. So far, candidates have been nominated from China, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Japan, Ghana, Colombia and Argentina. WIPO will hold sessions to formally nominate a candidate in March and plans to appoint the next director general in May.

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