US On International Trade Crusade With New Agenda 11/03/2010 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The recently released US annual trade agenda shows an intention to conquer new international markets, strengthen the global trade system and enforce obligations and US intellectual property rights. The US also means to address what they consider as trade barriers. [Update: President Obama spoke on the trade agenda today, more below.] Enforcement of trade rules and rights, notably IP rights, and addressing market access barriers are described as very important to the objective of expanding trade opportunities, according to President Obama’s agenda released by the US Trade Representative’s Office on 1 March. [Update: In remarks today to the Export-Import Bank, President Obama hailed the US trade agenda as a significant job-generator, and highlighted the importance of intellectual property rights. He said: “we’re going to aggressively protect our intellectual property. Our single greatest asset is the innovation and the ingenuity and creativity of the American people. It is essential to our prosperity and it will only become more so in this century. But it’s only a competitive advantage if our companies know that someone else can’t just steal that idea and duplicate it with cheaper inputs and labor. There’s nothing wrong with other people using our technologies, we welcome it – we just want to make sure that it’s licensed, and that American businesses are getting paid appropriately. That’s why USTR is using the full arsenal of tools available to crack down on practices that blatantly harm our businesses, and that includes negotiating proper protections and enforcing our existing agreements, and moving forward on new agreements, including the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.”] [Mark Esper of the US Chamber of Commerce Global IP Center commented, “As the President stated in his address today before the Export-Import Bank, we cannot achieve job growth without aggressively protecting our intellectual property.”] The US trade agenda was warmly welcomed by the Chamber Global IP Center on 9 March, and by other US industry, although some items referred to in the agenda are being debated internationally, such as the World Trade Organization Doha Round of negotiations and bilateral trade agreements. Meanwhile, the overly strong enforcement of IP rights has been considered by human rights advocates as hindering access to technology, health and knowledge. US WTO Objectives: TRIPS Implementation, GI Register In 2010, the US plans to engage with “key advanced developing trading partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally” to penetrate new markets, in the framework of the WTO Negotiating Group on Non-Agricultural Market Access. The 2010 US objectives in the TRIPS Council are, among others, to “continue efforts to ensure that developing country members fully implement the TRIPS agreement, engage in constructive dialogue regarding the technical assistance and capacity-related needs of developing countries in connection with TRIPS implementation,” and “ensure that provisions of the TRIPS agreement are not weakened.” In many fora, the issue of TRIPS implementation is being discussed, notably in the context of bilateral and multilateral agreements, with complaints from civil society and some developing country governments that some agreements include some measures going beyond TRIPS rules, known as TRIPS-plus measures. Another agenda item is the mandated establishment at the WTO of a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines and spirits, which are protected under the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The US intends to “aggressively pursue additional support for the joint proposal” of predominately New World countries who seek a softer, voluntary approach to the register. They will “seek a more flexible and pragmatic approach on the part of the EU so that negotiations can be completed.” Europe is a primary proponent of a mandatory register (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 12 June 2009). The US trade agenda does not appear to include intent to consider of proposals by a majority of WTO members to negotiate on an extension to other products of the high level of GI protection given to wines and spirits, and a proposal to amend the TRIPS agreement to improve protection of biodiversity. The US has been a staunch opponent of discussing those issues in the WTO round. In the context of the Doha Round, given the US “significant duty-free and quota-free market access to least-developed countries,” the trade agenda asks if “advanced developing economies will accept responsibility commensurate with their growing economic influence.” The agenda also compared the “value of what the US would give in market opening along with a reduction of US agriculture support,” supposedly well known, and the “value of new opportunities” allegedly rendered vague by the “broad flexibilities available to key emerging markets like China, India, and Brazil.” In 2010 the WTO Committee on Regional Trade Agreements will review three US regional agreements: US-Bahrain, US-Peru and Dominican Republic-Central America-United States under the transparency mechanism. Under this mechanism, the WTO launched a database in January 2009 that includes information on regional trade agreements, available to the public. “Vexing” Foreign Standards and Sanitary/Phytosanitary Barriers The US is determined to identify and address “unnecessary or unjustified barriers stemming from sanitary and phytosanitary [plant-related] measures as well as technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures” restricting US exports. The country will try to identify which of those measures and regulations may be inconsistent with international trade agreements. “We will tackle one of the most vexing problems for American firms on world markets: the costly and time-consuming regulatory review of products across many national markets,” according to the President’s agenda. The US will use trade policy to ensure that US products can access markets “more simply and more efficiently.” Behind-the-borders barriers, such as trade restrictions brought by safety rules that might not be documented, should be addressed, the agenda said. “Too frequently scientific judgements and internationally accepted guidelines are ignored when making policies for agricultural products, including rules governing poultry, sanitation, restrictions on port and port products in response to the H1N1 virus,” and “regulations governing some genetically modified food [GMO] products.” Even the European Union and Japan, “trading partners with sophisticated regulatory systems,” are taking certain regulations that are “inconsistent with scientific evidence and internationally accepted guidelines,” it said. The European Commission recently approved the cultivation of five GMOs but announced shortly afterward that a proposal would follow allowing member states to choose if they wish to cultivate GMOs or not. The approvals were based on the evaluation of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). According to French newspaper Le Monde, interviewing a French Green Party representative, EFSA members have links with biotechnology industry, such as the former GMO specialist of the agency who became a Syngenta employee. Some other staff both belongs to EFSA and are consultants for companies linked to GMOs producers, the representative said. Vigorous IP Rights Protection: A Must for Innovation The US trade agenda means to use “all the tools of trade policy” to protect IP rights, it said. Insufficient protection of IP rights will be addressed “by negotiating and enforcing effective” IP. USTR vowed to continue work on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a negotiation which has been criticised for lack of transparency and public interest concerns. The trade agenda accentuates that efforts will be made to address transparency, and “assure meaningful public input to the proposed ACTA. “We will address insufficient protection in a manner compatible with basic principles of the public welfare,” it said. According to the US Chamber of Commerce Global IP Center, “IP industries account for over half of all US exports,” and “18 million workers are employed in IP-dependent industries.” They also applauded the Obama administration for their efforts to conclude ACTA, and called for the administration to continue its transparency efforts as “some anti-IP activists want to kill this agreement by claiming the talks are too opaque.” William New contributed to this report. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."US On International Trade Crusade With New Agenda" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.