Talking TPP: Getting Through to Negotiators

Trans Pacific Partnership Leaders

As final negotiations begin for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, it is essential that U.S. representatives understand the impact this agreement will have on our future. The TPP presents an opportunity to set the standard for future trade agreements, but implementing the wrong policies could do more harm than good.

Any TPP agreement must enable U.S. innovation and not finalizing an agreement is better than signing one that compromises America’s ability to create technologies and make advancements that benefit society. A key factor in protecting innovation through the TPP will be the assurance of strong intellectual property (IP) rights protections that promote investments in R&D and technology development and insure the free flow of information across borders.

As ITIF has noted, IP is a central component of the innovation ecosystem, which is a key factor in a healthy economy, in both developed and developing nations. For example, strengthening IP rights has been connected with increased inflows of foreign direct investment, rates of domestic innovation, and trade in high technology products.

A new ITIF report further examines the TPP and emphasizes the importance of designing an agreement that maximizes innovation and protects IP. It also argues that participating nations must be held to the highest standards, and failing to do so would adversely affect the U.S. economy as well as the advancement of global innovation. To accomplish these goals, the report offers a series of recommendations that must be included in the final agreement.

The policy prescriptions presented include:

  • Strengthen overall intellectual property rights protections.
  • Eliminate all tariffs on trade in innovation industries.
  • Require TPP countries to join the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement.
  • Require TPP countries to join the Government Procurement Agreement
  • Liberalize trade in innovative services, especially telecommunication services
  • Enshrine 12 years of data exclusivity for biopharmaceutical products
  • Outlaw local content requirements and other localization barriers to trade
  • Lower all barriers to Foreign Direct Investment

The TPP can and should serve as a model for an innovation-centric trade agreement, promoting economic growth for all member countries. But to do so it must protect intellectual property, eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade, and ensure the free flow of information across borders. Anything less is unacceptable.

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About the author

Dr. Robert D. Atkinson is one of the country’s foremost thinkers on innovation economics. With has an extensive background in technology policy, he has conducted ground-breaking research projects on technology and innovation, is a valued adviser to state and national policy makers, and a popular speaker on innovation policy nationally and internationally. He is the author of "Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage" (Yale, forthcoming) and "The Past and Future of America’s Economy: Long Waves of Innovation That Power Cycles of Growth" (Edward Elgar, 2005). Before coming to ITIF, Atkinson was Vice President of the Progressive Policy Institute and Director of PPI’s Technology & New Economy Project. Ars Technica listed Atkinson as one of 2009’s Tech Policy People to Watch. He has testified before a number of committees in Congress and has appeared in various media outlets including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, and NBC Nightly News. He received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1989.