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White House trade adviser claims Bezos won't meet with him about online counterfeits

White House trade adviser claims Bezos won't meet with him about online counterfeits
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White House trade adviser Peter Navarro in an interview published Wednesday accused Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosBlue Origin takes one small step toward being a competitor to SpaceX Democrats question Amazon over reported interference of workers' rights to organize Hillicon Valley: Twitter lacked adequate cybersecurity protection ahead of July hacks, regulator says | Twitter, Facebook clamp down on New York Post article about Hunter Biden | YouTube bans COVID-19 vaccine misinformation MORE of avoiding a meeting with the Trump administration about the issue of online counterfeits, fueling the ongoing rift between the online retail giant and the White House.  

Navarro said Bezos in January agreed to meet with the White House about the scourge of fake products on his platform, but about a month later the company has only offered up senior executives for a sit-down rather than the Amazon founder himself. 

"The reason I want to see Jeff Bezos is because Jeff Bezos could, in the blink of an eye, put a complete halt to the counterfeiting that Amazon is facilitating,” Navarro told The Washington Post. “It’s a rare occurrence where a single individual can have an enormous impact on the issue — but so far, it’s ‘see no evil.’” 

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Navarro said he approached Bezos about a potential meeting when he ran into him at a dinner last month. He claimed Bezos said to him, "Just call [Amazon senior vice president of global corporate affairs] Jay Carney, tell him we’ll meet. We’ll get it done." 

In a statement, an Amazon spokeswoman said multiple senior Amazon executives have met with Navarro and other Trump administration officials "on multiple occasions" to discuss combatting counterfeit goods.

"We are eager to continue this collaboration and will make our executives available to meet as often as necessary to effectively address this issue," the spokeswoman said. 

The tense back-and-forth comes as the Trump administration is ramping up a pressure campaign against online retailers such as Amazon, eBay and Wal-Mart over reducing the amount of online counterfeits, such as fake chargers or infant formula, available on their powerful platforms. Just last Friday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE issued an executive order seeking to crack down on the import of counterfeit goods that U.S. customers can purchase on sites like Amazon. 

The Department of Homeland Security issued a lengthy report last month threatening a legal and legislative response to the hundreds of billions of dollars of fakes sold on online retail platforms every year. Navarro penned an op-ed last week pressing the private companies, including Amazon, to "do much more to combat counterfeit and pirated products trafficking."

In the piece, he warned that the companies that the government will step in if they don't follow the administration's proscribed best practices.

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“The federal government will use all means necessary to encourage rapid adoption and to monitor progress," he wrote. 

A person familiar with the encounter between Bezos and Navarro told The Hill on Wednesday that there was a "miscommunication." The source said Bezos was under the impression that he'd encouraged Navarro to reach out to Carney to set up a sit-down between Amazon executives and Trump administration officials – but had never promised a personal meeting. 

Navarro did not immediately respond to The Hill's follow-up questions. 

Trump has openly railed against Bezos, his perceived political rival, over a range of issues. He has focused much of his ire on Bezo's ownership of The Washington Post, a newspaper that Trump claims is biased against him.

In an unprecedented move, Amazon last year sued the Pentagon over allegations that Trump exerted "improper pressure" to keep a lucrative cloud-computing contract away from Amazon. That case is ongoing.