Trade Negotiations Should Review Findings of Special 301 Report | Citizens Against Government Waste

Trade Negotiations Should Review Findings of Special 301 Report

The WasteWatcher

During President Trump’s campaign and throughout his first 100 days in office, there was a great deal of discussion about tearing up or renegotiating various trade agreements, especially the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  President Trump announced on April 27, 2017 that instead of withdrawing from NAFTA, as he often suggested during the campaign, he would instead renegotiate the agreement.  While the President may be focused on what he views as unfair trade practices and their impact on jobs, he must not forget about intellectual property (IP) rights.

The U.S. has a strong history of IP protection, founded in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, but other countries do not value IP as highly.  On April 28, 2017, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its 2017 Special 301 Report, which summarizes the global state of IP protection and enforcement. 

Of particular note, the 2017 report retains China and India on the Priority Watch List.  China’s continued presence is due in part to widespread infringing activity, including counterfeiting and piracy, coercive technology transfer requirements, and structural impediments to effective IP enforcement.  India retains its Priority Watch List placement due to a lack of sufficient measurable improvement to its IP framework, and issues that have negatively affected U.S. right holders with respect to patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and enforcement.  The report also focuses on the negative market access effects of the European Union’s approach to the protection of geographical indications in the EU and third-country markets on U.S. producers and traders, particularly those with prior trademark rights or who rely on the use of common food names.

When developing the Special 301 report, the USTR organizes countries into three categories:  the Priority Watch List; the Watch List; and those that are not included in the report.  The 11 countries on the USTR’s Priority Watch List are Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela.  The 23 countries on the Watch List are Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.  The report includes an explanation for each country on reasons why it was included on a particular list.

Protecting IP rights, both domestically and internationally, is critical to America’s economic future.  The federal government must continue to work with its trading partners during trade negotiations to ensure that IP is respected and protected, and that certainly applies to any renegotiation of NAFTA, with both Canada and Mexico on the Watch List.