Crunch Time at the TPP

By Jasper MacSlarrow

After nearly four years, 19 negotiating rounds, and the expansion of the negotiating table to include 12 countries, the United States is in the end-game of one of the most comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement the world has ever seen.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has indicated the United States wants to see the agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), completed by year-end. Against that backdrop, it’s imperative that we strike a pact that does not lower U.S. standards, especially for intellectual property (IP) rights protections.

The 12 countries from Brunei to Chile have met repeatedly enduring tough and onerous negotiations because the TPP will create the largest free-trade zone in history. The resulting free trade and the flow of goods and services, closely linked to intellectual property, will open up economies in unimaginable and unprecedented ways.  The anticipated economic impact is so great that other countries are clamoring to join negotiations, even the likes of China and India.

As the text is negotiated and areas of contention are ironed out, the importance of intellectual property protection provisions cannot be overstated. IP is a  driver of innovation, which is the bread and butter of the U.S. economy. According to the Department of Commerce, nearly two-thirds of all U.S. merchandise exports can be tied back to patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Yes, that’s the American-conceived technologies, medicines, entertainment, consumer products, clothing—you name it—which could be impacted by the TPP.

Forty million IP-intensive jobs are contributing to the production of these exports and to our GDP (35% of which is tied to IP-intensive industries), giving us 40 million reasons to support a robust and meaningful TPP.

So what does a good TPP look like? The U.S. Trade Representative must advocate for—and appears to be advocating for— provisions that are consistent with U.S. law and existing free trade agreements, such as the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, which many deem as the gold standard. American businesses, workers, and the administration must seek standards in line with U.S. law as the negotiations zero in on IP protections against theft online and standards for creating new breakthrough innovations, like green technologies and life-saving medicines.

The TPP should be something we are proud of, and we’re confident we’ll get there. Agreements of this scale aren’t haphazardly put together and should be a win-win for all parties involved. Protecting and promoting innovators’ and creators’ rights cannot be traded away.


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