The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Trade Agreements Protect IP Abroad

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The U.S. Trade Representative has been working on two important trade agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Each of the agreements provides opportunities for the U.S. to expand its reach into the global market, while protecting and promoting U.S. manufactured goods overseas. The agreements also present an opportunity for the U.S. to further enhance the protection of intellectual property (IP) abroad.

While the U.S. has a strong history of IP protection, founded in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, other countries do not value IP protection as highly. Indeed, the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2015 Section 301 Report to Congress found that a number of the U.S.’s trading partners had a deterioration of IP rights protection, enforcement, and market access for those relying on IP rights. There was inadequate protection of trade secrets in several countries including China and India; “indigenous innovation” policies that unfairly disadvantage U.S. rights holders in China; continuing challenges of online copyright piracy in countries, such as Brazil, China, India, and Russia; and trademark counterfeiting in China; market access barriers to products embodying IP rights and measures that impede market access for U.S. entities that reply on IP rights protection; and, other ongoing, systemic IP rights enforcement issues with many trading partners around the globe.

Indeed, many of the countries listed in the 2015 Special 301 Report were also noted as having poor IP protection in the Global Intellectual Property Center’s 2015 International Index. A cross check of the two reports highlights countries such as Thailand, India, Indonesia, and Argentina as having poor records of IP rights and enforcement. The 2015 Special 301 report also includes Russia and the Ukraine on its Priority Watch List, which also performed poorly on the GIPC Index. While one might wonder how IP rights and country’s performance on the index and Special 301 report impact trade, the U.S. Trade Representative highlighted the lack of intellectual property protection (e.g., inadequate patent, copyright, and trademark regimes and enforcement of intellectual property rights) as one of the ten categories that impede trade, or are a barrier to foreign trade in its 2015 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE).

TPP and T-TIP provide the U.S. with an opportunity to highlight how important the protection of IP rights is to the global economy. The countries engaged in TPP talks include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam; and seeks to expand as well to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the U.S. exports of goods to countries involved in the TPP negotiations totaled $698 billion in 2013, representing 44 percent of total U.S. goods exported overseas. The T-TIP negotiations are underway between the U.S. and the European Union (EU). The agreement seeks to increase economic growth in the U.S. and the EU, as well add to the more than 13 million American and EU jobs already supported by transatlantic trade and investments.

Among the provisions being negotiated in TPP are trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights and obligations: trademarks, geographical indications, copyright and related rights, patents, trade secrets, data required for the approval of certain regulated products, as well as IP enforcement and genetic resources and traditional knowledge. T-TIP negotiations include efforts by the U.S. to obtain a high-level IP rights protection and enforcement regime, and to enhance joint leadership with the EU on IP rights issues, as well as seeking new opportunities to advance and defend the interests of U.S. creators, innovators, businesses, farmers, and workers with respect to strong IP rights protection and enforcement, including their ability to compete in foreign markets.

Both of these agreements are at the point where the President needs authorization to proceed, which would be provided by passage of the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (TPA). As noted in a recent commentary by CAGW’s William Christian, the House and Senate are currently debating TPA with consideration expected to be completed in June. Approval of TPA, followed by the final negotiation of TPP and T-TIP with strong IP protection would be of great value to U.S. and global economies.

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