Alibaba chairman Jack Ma has cancelled a speech he was scheduled to make at an event held by a global anti-counterfeiting body after the group suspended the Chinese company’s membership.
Ma was set to make the speech at the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) conference in Washington, but dropped the commitment on Tuesday amid a backlash from brands and an independent investigation into the group’s management.
“We believe the IACC’s suspension of the general membership category is a step in the wrong direction and regrettable,” said an Alibaba spokesperson in an online blog.
“Given the IACC’s desire for additional time to reflect upon the viability of its general membership category, Alibaba feels it best that Jack Ma postpone his appearance,” she said.
Alibaba joined the group, which is primarily made up of brands, under a new type of ‘intermediary’ membership category.
Members including Gucci, Michael Kors and Tiffany & Co. reacted to the move by withdrawing their memberships in protest, claiming that Alibaba has not done enough to protect brands from counterfeit within China. Michael Kors legal counsel Lee Sporn even accused the IACC of giving “cover to our most dangerous and damaging adversary.”
The IACC suspended Alibaba’s membership amid the brand backlash, as well as concerns over a conflict of interest concerning the group’s chairman, who reportedly owns shares in Alibaba and maintained a close relationship with an Alibaba executive.
“Unfortunately, those who pressured the IACC on this decision prefer a confrontational approach,” said the Alibaba spokesperson. “Pitting brands against Alibaba and other industry participants in the hopes of prolonged litigation.”
In lieu of Jack Ma’s Washington speech, Alibaba president Michael Evans will address IACC at an event in Orlando on the 19th of May, said the company.