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Planet Money’s most recent episode (#900!) tells a roller-coaster ride of international intrigue and counterfeit manufacturing.

…back in 2002, ABRO’s sales started to dip. Tim heard from a customer that counterfeit ABRO goods in China might be causing the problem. So, he flew over to investigate. What he discovered– the extent of the fraud–was shocking. And even more surprising, the company posing as ABRO insisted they were the real ABRO.

The episode is a lot of fun and takes a few interesting turns (especially for a show about a glue company), but it also does a good job highlighting how complex the trade network is, and how hard it is for U.S. companies to deal with Chinese counterfeits. Spoiler alert, the story ends well for ABRO, but not all companies are so fortunate.

One of the purported reasons the American company was able to triumph is that the glue industry isn’t really that important to China. If the company that was getting ripped off was, say, a semiconductor company it might have been different story. Without stricter top down enforcement in China, it seems unlikely that this will ever really be under control. This is whats at stake, and what a lot of the current trade war is about.

The whole episode is here and worth a listen. And if you aren’t subscribed to Planet Money, you should be! It’s some of the best explanatory journalism around. Their series on “how a t-shirt is made” covers so many aspects of international manufacturing and trade, so if you’ve only got room for a few podcasts in your feed, at least check those few out.