Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: We Must Trade Up

By Miti Sathe

This week three years ago, the United States formally joined leaders of eight nations from both sides of the Pacific Ocean to begin negotiations of an ambitious trade pact designed to serve as a template for international commerce in the critical Asia-Pacific region. Sixteen negotiation rounds later, the addition of two—and now possibly three—major economies, and the promise of a completed agreement in President Obama’s State of the Union Address, have risen the stakes for achieving a successful and comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

In intellectual property (IP)-intensive sectors alone, more than 55 million jobs generate 74% of U.S. exports, creating jobs at home while establishing the U.S. as a leader in innovation and creativity. A high-standard TPP Agreement would provide an opportunity to empower other nations to harness their innovative potential while also fostering American jobs and promoting our most cutting-edge industries.

In a letter sent to Acting U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) late Friday evening, Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) urged USTR to secure a gold-standard intellectual property chapter in TPP to propel our economy forward:

The intellectual property protection and enforcement regime of the United States has supported this best-in-class innovation and entrepreneurship, and we owe it to U.S. innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs to seek the same level of protection and enforcement from our trading partners. This is particularly important for our most cutting-edge sectors, which rely on strong protection of patents, copyights, trademarks, trade secrets, and regulatory data, to maintain their innovative advantage. Our companies cannot continue to invent create, and grow at home if their competitiveness is compromised when they do business abroad.

We strongly support your commitment to ‘aggressively protect’ intellectual property through international trade negotiations.

So, how can this be achieved? First, there must be robust IP protections and enforcement provisions, consistent with the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).  There must also be 12 years of regulatory data protection for biologics, which is also current U.S. law, in order to guarantee future investment in life-saving treatments, production, and access to pharmaceuticals. Finally, there must be “strong remedies” against trade secret theft, which hits at the heart of U.S. competitiveness and is a constant challenge to market access abroad.

Strong, comprehensive, and enforceable IP rights in the TPP cannot traded-off. With an agreement that spans three continents and will set the future of trade, the U.S. must support nothing less than high-standards in the rights and protection of patents, copyrights, trademarks, regulatory data, and trade secrets. We echo the message expressed by Senators Baucus and Hatch and look forward to the TPP’s successful completion.

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