US-backed candidate nominated to lead UN body after anti-China campaign
Singapore’s Daren Tang beat Chinese contender for World Intellectual Property Organisation role
A US campaign helped prevent China’s contender from taking the helm of the World Intellectual Property Organisation — and its trove of 250,000 patents — as part of wider efforts to curb Beijing’s influence at the UN. Daren Tang, head of Singapore’s intellectual property office, was nominated Wipo’s incoming director-general subject to confirmation from the body’s general assembly in May, the UN organisation said on Wednesday. Mr Tang defeated Wang Binying, currently a Wipo deputy director and a former Beijing trade official, in a second round of voting with 55 votes to 28, according to people briefed on the election. Mr Tang’s nomination follows a fresh push by Washington to limit China’s influence at the UN. The Trump administration has grown alarmed after Beijing won the leadership of its fourth UN agency last year. No other of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council heads more than one of the UN’s 15 agencies. The US decision to counter China’s influence on international bodies comes as Washington has confronted Beijing on trade — with intellectual property being an important issue. “This is a big win for Washington and shows that Beijing will not be able to eat up UN posts unopposed from here on,” said Richard Gowan, UN director at International Crisis Group. “A lot of US allies, including the Europeans, will be quietly relieved the US is pushing back against China’s multilateral power games more effectively.”
China’s efforts to increase its involvement in UN agencies reflected “its broader strategy to increase its influence in international organisations and to gain control over the United Nations’ standards-setting bodies”, a senior Trump administration official told the Financial Times. The official added: “Beijing’s efforts are aimed at reshaping the international system to accommodate its political and economic interests.”
Mark Lambert, the new envoy appointed by the Trump administration to counter China’s rising clout at the UN, was among the US delegation that flew to Geneva for the two-day voting process, according to people briefed on the matter. China heads the Food and Agriculture Organization; Unido, the industrial development organisation; Itu, the international telecoms body; and Icao, which oversees civil aviation. US and European officials say Beijing has also sought a host of entry-level jobs to bolster its advancement at the UN in the long term. A state department official said the appointment of Beijing’s favoured candidate to lead the FAO last year came as a “wake-up call” to Washington. A lot of US allies, including the Europeans, will be quietly relieved the US is pushing back against China’s multilateral power games more effectively James Pooley, a former deputy director-general at Wipo, had cautioned ahead of the vote that putting China at the helm of a global institution dedicated to safeguarding intellectual property would be “like appointing the fox to guard the hen house”. He said it would mean China could access “the secrets of the world’s future technology before anyone else”. Mr Pooley said a determined director-general would probably be able to overcome technical safeguards to gain access to Wipo’s Patent Cooperation Treaty, where an average of 250,000 patents from more than 153 participating states are kept for around 18 months before approval.
A 2017 US report said Chinese actors were responsible for losses of US intellectual property worth between $225bn and $600bn annually. However, Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to London, said in a letter to the FT this week there was no truth to allegations that China “steals” intellectual property.