Today, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer formally notified Congress of its intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), via a letter to Congressional leadership. The letter is less detailed than last March’s draft notification, and unlike the March draft, it includes no specific negotiating objectives. Rather, the letter that was sent today notes “our aim is that NAFTA be modernized to include new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs, procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium enterprises.” The letter also says that the Administration will develop negotiating positions that are consistent with the objectives found in Section 102 of the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act.
Last week, the USTR-led inter-agency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) held a hearing on China’s compliance with WTO obligations, to inform its upcoming report to Congress on the matter. Comments submitted by Carl Schonander of the Software & Information Industry Association incorrectly claim Chinese patent law contains compulsory licensing provisions that do not comply with the TRIPS Agreement because compulsory licenses are intended for use in “national emergencies or other circumstances of extreme urgency.” Similar misreadings TRIPS Article 31 have come up (and been put down) in the IP and access to medicines debate, but this is the first time I’ve seen it regarding software.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has requested comments for the Special 301 Report, which identifies countries that “deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) or deny fair and equitable market access to U.S. persons who rely on intellectual property protection.” It will also hold a public hearing for further input. The report is produced via an interagency process led by USTR, during which the Special 301 Subcommittee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee reviews information from “many” sources, including submitted comments and public testimony, and recommends placement of countries in the report.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has issued a request for comments for the 2016 National Trade Estimate (NTE) report on Foreign Trade Barriers. This is an annual report in which USTR seeks to identify “significant barriers to U.S. exports of goods, services, and U.S. foreign direct investment.” The notice suggests that “commenters should submit information related to one or more of the following categories of foreign trade barriers … (4) Lack of intellectual property protection (e.g., inadequate patent, copyright, and trademark regimes);”
Comments are open to the public, and should be submitted electronically by October 28, 2015. See the Federal Register Notice for instructions. The NTE report is typically released in the spring of each yearm, and the 2015 NTE is available here.
We the undersigned organizations and individuals are writing this letter to urge you to reject the pressure tactics of the United States (US) administration against India and to resist and challenge such US unilateral threats at multilateral forum.
On January 2, the United States Trade Representative issued its Federal Register Notice for the Special 301 Review. It is seeking “written submissions from the public concerning foreign countries that deny adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights or deny fair and equitable market access to U.S. persons who rely on intellectual property protection.” USTR will also host an open hearing for the 2014 Special 301 Review. Any interested party may testify, as long as notice of intent to testify is given by the deadline below.
Last week, The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) submitted a report to Congress on the state of China’s compliance with WTO rules, including those on intellectual property (the TRIPS Agreement). The report states that “China has established a framework of laws, regulations and departmental rules that largely satisfies its WTO commitment.” [p.17] However, USTR wants China to strengthen laws that exceed the level required by TRIPS, and the report describes its efforts to strengthen the laws, and the enforcement of those laws, especially online.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Trade Representative issued a request for public comments regarding the 2014 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE Report). Comments may be submitted by “any interested person,” and they are due on October 22, 2013.
The NTE report is defined in the request for comments as an annual report that “sets out an inventory of the most important foreign barriers affecting U.S. exports of goods and services, U.S. foreign direct investment, and protection of intellectual property rights. The inventory facilitates U.S. negotiations aimed at reducing or eliminating these barriers.”
[Cross-posted with permission from the DisCo Blog, (Link)] This morning, the new USTR Michael Froman testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means about a variety of trade policy issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In response to a question about access to medicine from Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Ambassador Froman emphasized the need for balance in intellectual property policy. Froman said the U.S. has been educating trade partners and stakeholders about provisions in U.S. law that achieve this balance, and been engaged in dialogues about principles.
Big Pharma shows its influence in the Senate Finance Committee
[Reposted with permission from Oxfam America (Link)] Teenagers are notorious for giving one-word responses when their parents inquire how school is going. Last week’s Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on Michael Froman’s nomination as US Trade Representative reminded me of this dynamic.
Because so much of the interrogation airtime was devoted to grandstanding, rather than actual questioning, Mr. Froman seemed to have little option other than to say “yes” and express his willingness to work with a Senator on an issue. Teenagers will say just enough to end their parents’ lecturing and get them off of their backs, eye rolls an added bonus. Well-intentioned parents, after all, were teenagers once too and want to impart their knowledge.
USTR has sent witnesses the schedule for its Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership hearing on May 29-30. There will be 61 witnesses over the two days. Each witness will have 5 minutes to give remakrks, and 5 minutes for Q&A.
Most of the civil society groups that work on intellectual property issues will testify on Wednesday afternoon. Most of the industry groups that frequently weigh in on IP matters are scheduled for Thursday afternoon.