Negotiators Push Ahead on TPP in Canada

Negotiators Push Ahead on TPP in Canada

07.08.14 | By Jay Taylor

Today, the countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement begin yet another round of negotiations in Ottawa, Canada. The TPP is a trade deal currently being negotiated between the U.S. and 11 countries in the Pacific Rim region, including Canada and Japan. The agreement is predicted to increase U.S. exports by $125 billion and help transform how business is conducted in the global economy. Although a final deal is not likely to be agreed upon during this meeting, negotiators continue to move closer toward a possible goal of completing the TPP by President Obama’s trip to Asia in November.

The first-ever free trade agreement of this magnitude, the TPP aims to be truly a 21st century trade pact that, if done right, will do much more than just reduce or remove trade barriers. It has the potential to provide a foundation for the future of global trade by instituting rules for all participating countries, especially with regard to intellectual property (IP) rights. And although much of the recent news surrounding the TPP has been focused on whether Japan is serious about eliminating tariffs, the IP provisions remain one of the largest hurdles for negotiators to work through before finalizing the agreement.

The United States’ role as the global leader in innovation is a distinction achieved by recognizing the value of IP and incentivizing the risk-taking needed to develop the kinds of products demanded by the world’s patients and consumers. America’s research-based biopharmaceutical companies are a prime example of how forward-thinking policies help our country retain its competitive advantage by spurring reinvestment into research for new, life-saving treatments and medicines. Our strong IP laws benefit not only our economy, but patients around the world who gain from discoveries made by the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry. In order for us to continue working to improve quality of life across the globe, strong and enforceable IP protections must be included in the final TPP agreement.

That is why the location of this TPP negotiating round is particularly poignant. While the Harper Administration’s trade agenda prioritizes jobs and economic growth, Canada continues to lag in one critical area – IP protections – that could contribute to this goal. Canada’s recent IP transgressions came to the forefront of the discussion yet again in January when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center released its 2014 International IP Index, in which Canada ranked eighth out of 25 countries – alongside Mexico, Russia, Colombia, and Chile. Although Canada, like the United States, has an advanced economy that greatly benefits from IP, it has made a habit of resisting biopharmaceutical IP protections, and even revoking foreign companies’ patents in favor of its own domestic industries. Since 2005, Canada has invalidated 19 patents owned by innovative drug developers – a practice that will ultimately keep Canada lower on the list as an attractive investment destination. Holding this round of negotiations in Canada, where IP will certainly be one of the main topics of discussion, will hopefully make Canada rethink its policies.

There is a lot at stake for the United States in the TPP and the outcome remains far from certain. That’s why the United States must make every effort to ensure a successful agreement whose IP provisions fundamentally support the principle that strong pharmaceutical IP rules are good for patients and for the diverse set of TPP partners, developing and developed economies alike.

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