US Issues Spate Of Trade Announcements, With IP In The Foreground 22/08/2017 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a 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)With much of the rest of the western world on holidays, the Office of the United States Trade Representative spent this month in meetings and issuing statements about improving international trade conditions for the US. Over the past two weeks, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other senior officials have been involved in activities with Canada and Mexico (under renegotiation of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA), Japan, South Korea, and China. USTR website displaying announcements China – IP Protection In a high-profile move, USTR on 18 August launched an investigation under US law into “whether acts, policies, and practices of the Government of China related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation are unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict U.S. commerce.” The action followed a sharply worded memorandum by President Trump issued on 14 August. Comments are due by 28 September and a hearing will be held on 10 October at the US International Trade Commission. It is not clear when the investigation will be completed. The investigation will initially look at four types of behaviour by the Chinese government, including discriminatory and difficult administrative practices that involve transferring US IP rights to Chinese companies, disadvantages for US companies in negotiating licensing deals and other arrangements involving technology, and the facilitating of Chinese companies to invest in or acquire US companies. It also includes unauthorised intrusions into US commercial computers and cybertheft of IP rights. The outcome could conceivably result in retaliatory actions against China. The full statement, with links to the Federal Register notice and Trump’s memorandum, is linked here and reprinted below: USTR Announces Initiation of Section 301 Investigation of China Washington, DC – Today, U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer formally initiated an investigation of China under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. The investigation will seek to determine whether acts, policies, and practices of the Government of China related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation are unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict U.S. commerce. “On Monday, President Trump instructed me to look into Chinese laws, policies, and practices which may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development,” said Ambassador Lighthizer. “After consulting with stakeholders and other government agencies, I have determined that these critical issues merit a thorough investigation. I notified the President that today I am beginning an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.” The initiation follows upon President Trump’s Memorandum of August 14, 2017 instructing the U.S. Trade Representative to consider the possible initiation of an investigation. The President’s Memorandum emphasized that “the United States is a world leader in research-and-development-intensive, high-technology goods,” and that “violations of intellectual property rights and other unfair technology transfers potentially threaten United States firms by undermining their ability to compete fairly in the global market.” The President’s Memorandum further noted that China’s conduct “may inhibit United States exports, deprive United States citizens of fair remuneration for their innovations, divert American jobs to workers in China, contribute to our trade deficit with China, and otherwise undermine American manufacturing, services, and innovation.” Details on the investigation, including the schedule for public comments and a public hearing, are set out in a notice posted on the USTR website and to be published in the Federal Register. Background: Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, gives the U.S. Trade Representative broad authority to respond to a foreign country’s unfair trade practices. If USTR makes an affirmative determination of actionable conduct, it has the authority to take all appropriate and feasible action to obtain the elimination of the act, policy, or practice, subject to the direction of the President, if any. The statute includes authorization to take any actions that are within the President’s power with respect to trade in goods or services, or any other area of pertinent relations with the foreign country. NAFTA NAFTA renegotiation talks were held from 11-16 August and a next round will be held in Mexico on 1-5 September, with a target for completion by mid-2018. Trump has put a lot of emphasis on updating NAFTA, and has particularly targeted IP rights for improvement. Last week saw the first round of many negotiations to come, and attracted strong lobbying statements signed by many representatives from both the copyright industry and information access proponents. The “creative industry” issued a letter for last week’s negotiations calling for more enforcement of IP rights, curbs on limitations and exceptions to IP rights (used for things like public access), and a stronger push for internet service providers to work with copyright owners to protect content online. Public interest groups in an 18 August letter urged greater transparency in the negotiations, and concern that users’ rights to access content be considered equally and not weakened. The public interest was discussed and linked in this Electronic Frontier Foundation post, among others. It said these negotiations appear to have started off even less transparent than the troubled Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks of the past few years. The full trilateral (Canada, Mexico, US) statement from the close of the first round is below: On August 16, 2017, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo launched the renegotiation and modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in Washington, DC. This began five full days of meetings by a team of subject matter experts covering more than two dozen different negotiation topics. Detailed conceptual presentations were made by the United States, Mexico and Canada across the scope of the agreement, and negotiating groups began work to advance text and agreed to provide additional text, comments or alternate proposals during the next two weeks. The scope and volume of proposals during the first round of the negotiation reflects a commitment from all three countries to an ambitious outcome and reaffirms the importance of updating the rules governing the world’s largest free trade area. In addition to the negotiations, officials from all three countries continued to engage a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of the private sector; industry associations; civil society, including labor groups; legislative representatives; and state/provincial officials. Negotiators from each country will continue domestic consultations and work to advance negotiating text through the end of August, and will reconvene in Mexico for a second round of talks from September 1-5. Negotiations will continue at this rapid pace, moving to Canada in late September and returning to the United States in October, with additional rounds being planned for the remainder of the year. While a great deal of effort and negotiation will be required in the coming months, Canada, Mexico and the United States are committed to an accelerated and comprehensive negotiation process that will upgrade our agreement and establish 21st century standards to the benefit of our citizens. USTR refers to a need to “21st century” standards, despite NAFTA having been negotiated just a few years before the 21st century, presumably a reference to technological change that has occurred in that time. Another small observation is that despite its emphasis on new technologies and latest developments, the USTR website front page shows an old world-style port filled with shipping containers, representing trade in physical goods. The trilateral statement says there is engagement with “a wide range of stakeholders,” which seems to run contrary to the EFF blog that said engagement is on track to being less than TPP, which was already minimal. The trilateral statement also lists the types of stakeholders, inexplicably listing “private sector” as separate from “industry associations.” USTR published its NAFTA negotiating objectives in July. Press release here. Full text of objectives here [pdf]. The July release stated that, “among other objectives, the Administration will work to eliminate unfair subsidies, market-distorting practices by state owned enterprises, and burdensome restrictions on intellectual property.” The objectives on IP rights focus largely on protection and enforcement, and fair access to the other two markets. Korea-US FTA The Trump administration has also set it sights on improving the trade imbalance that it says has risen since the 2011 Korea-US Free Trade Agreement was completed some years ago. Lighthizer and Korean Trade Minister Hyun-chong Kim on 22 August held a one-day special session (via videoconference) in Seoul of the US-Korea FTA Joint Committee. In his 22 August statement following the conclusion of the opening talks, Lighthizer singled out intellectual property rights, stating: “The United States and Korea have an important economic relationship. Unfortunately, too many American workers have not benefited from the agreement. USTR has long pressed the Korean government to address burdensome regulations which often exclude U.S. firms or artificially set prices for American intellectual property. This negotiation offers us an opportunity to resolve these and other barriers.” Talks on the issues raised in the special session are expected to continue over the coming weeks, USTR said. US-Japan Separately, on 17 August, Lighthizer met with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono “for wide-ranging discussions on strengthening and advancing bilateral trade and economic relations,” according to a USTR press release. “At the meeting, they discussed work plans to promote the trade agenda under the U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue, co-chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, and agreed on accelerating discussions to address specific bilateral trade issues as well as to explore approaches to strengthen free and fair trade and promote high trade and investment standards,” USTR said. Image Credits: USTR 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 William New may be reached at email@example.com."US Issues Spate Of Trade Announcements, With IP In The Foreground" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.