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Economic Development

World Intellectual Property Day – Highlighting How IP Incentivizes Innovation

Every April 26, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to promote discussion of the role of intellectual property (IP) in encouraging innovation and creativity. Given the increasing tempest over the role of IP in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, the day provides an important reminder about the foundational role that IP plays in supporting innovation. IP is more important than ever as it is embodied in many economic sectors, especially across the digital economy, which means it affects not only innovation, but also trade, competition, taxes, and other areas of public policy and society. According to the OECD, investment in IP-protected capital is growing faster than investment in tangible capital.

To analyze this critical relationship between IP protection and innovation, ITIF compared the strength of IP laws and the effectiveness of anti-counterfeiting laws based on data from the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2015-16 and creative output scores from the Global Innovation Index 2015, a report from Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO. The Global Innovation Index applies three distinct measures of creativity in an economy that taken together provide a measure

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Innovation Fact of the Week: Over Past 140 Years, Tech Created More Jobs Than It Destroyed

(Ed. Note: The “Innovation Fact of the Week” appears as a regular feature in each edition of ITIF’s weekly email newsletter. Sign up today.)

Looking at job records in the United Kingdom dating back to 1871, researchers as Deloitte have concluded that new technology continually creates more jobs than it destroys. As new technologies are implemented, historical data shows, savings on consumer goods have increased people’s spending power, freeing them to purchase a larger and more diverse basket of goods and services. This demand creates new jobs in expanding industries.

While technology tends to shift jobs between industries, the net effect is that employment goes up. Moreover, the jobs created tend to be jobs in caring, creative, technology, and business sectors, while jobs destroyed are more likely to have been dangerous, dull, and reliant on muscle power. For example, from 1992 to 2014, the number of farmers, company secretaries, metal workers, and typists are all down by more than 50 percent, but the number of nurses has increased by 900 percent. Technology, the report concludes, is a “job-creating machine,” and though up to 35 percent of U.K.

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High-Growth Entrepreneurship for Development: Report of a Roundtable with Michael Dell

Policymakers around the world have increasingly come to realize that entrepreneurship, particularly high-growth entrepreneurship (HGE), is critical for economic development in nations at all levels of development. That is one reason the United Nations Foundation asked Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc., to be the Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship and to work closely with the Foundation and its Global Entrepreneurs Council to help shape and advance a global entrepreneurship agenda.

To inform the Council’s thinking, Michael Dell led a meeting in Washington, DC, on December 2, 2014, hosted by 1776, a cutting-edge “accelerator” to help technology-based entrepreneurs translate their ideas into growing businesses. The meeting participants included tech-based entrepreneurs and policymakers, and I was asked to participate and serve as rapporteur.

Michael Dell opened up the roundtable with a discussion of proposed policy mechanisms to spur high growth entrepreneurship, including ensuring access to capital, technology, talent, and markets. The following is a summary of the themes and recommendations from the discussion.

The Nature of Technology-Enabled Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Policymakers around the world are interested in HGE because they understand that technology opportunities driving this type of entrepreneurship have exploded.

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Mobile Telecom Offers Enormous Benefits, Finds New Report

Boston Consulting Group and Qualcomm have just released a new report examining the impact of mobile devices on the economy, focusing on the benefits mobile brings to small businesses and consumers in six countries including the United States, Germany, Korea, Brazil, China and India. The authors estimate that mobile technologies increase consumer welfare by the equivalent of 10 percent of total income in developed countries, and 20-45 percent of total income in developing countries. In fact, the total value that mobile brings to consumers is estimated to be more than double the size of the of the entire mobile industry revenue.

These economic gains have been enabled by remarkable technological progress. Global average cost per megabyte has declined from nearly 98 percent between 2005 and 2013, while maximum data speed has increased from ~10 to 250 mbps over the same period. These vast changes in cost and performance have made mobile technology affordable to billions of people around the world. Even so, more technological progress is necessary: 90 percent of mobile technology users report having problems with their connection. 5G and 6G technologies will continue to improve access and connectivity

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Developing Countries Need Robots Too

Ask any economist why some countries are poor and some countries are rich, and they will probably answer, “productivity”. Essentially, this means that people in rich countries are rich because they are able to create more wealth with less effort. But how do they do this? One of the primary ways is through better technology.

Unfortunately, instead of being recognized for its contribution to wealth, better technology is all too often demonized as a threat to employment, particularly in low-income countries without social safety nets. Intuitively, people care more about the jobs and income streams that already exist than the potential future savings from automating their jobs–a bird in hand, as they say. But a new paper by Mehmet Ugur and Arup Mitra of the University of Greenwich shows that even in very poor countries, technology is far less threatening than it may appear.

We have argued here before that robots are not taking our jobs: in the long run on a macro level productivity increases have no relationship with either the total number of people employed or with the level of unemployment. This is because when automation or

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Hallelujah, Forward Progress on Trade Facilitation

This afternoon, the United States and India resolved their differences over New Delhi’s insistence for an interim mechanism for public stockholding programs for food security to continue until members reach a permanent solution – paving the way for breaking the impasse over implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The TFA seeks to create binding commitments across 159(+) WTO Members to:  1) expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods; 2) improve cooperation among WTO Members on customs matters; and 3) help developing countries fully implement these obligations. In addition, the agreement promises to increase customs efficiency and effective collection of revenue, and help small businesses access new export opportunities through measures like transparency in customs practices, reduction of documentary requirements, and processing of documents before goods arrive.

Consequently, the TFA’s potential impact on facilitating global trade should not be overlooked. One study estimated the TFA could increase global output by about $1 trillion, while adding as many as 21 million new jobs, most of which would have flowed to developing nations such as India. The OECD estimated that it would cut global trade

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Will the next Silicon Valley be located in the United States?

In 1956, an American engineer, William Shockley, had an idea that silicon could be used to make transistors, and founded a company in Mountain View, California. The rest is history. The area experienced explosive growth after the invention of the silicon semiconductor sparked waves of innovation. Other firms developed around the Shockley’s first company, also developing and improving on the invention. Continual support from nearby Stanford University, along with collaboration between local firms, created an innovative environment ideal for fostering growth. By the 1960s, 31 semiconductor firms had been established in the country, of which only five were located outside the region. Smaller firms providing research, specialized services, and other inputs located nearby the larger companies. Innovation thrived, the local economy boomed, the center of high-tech innovation shifted from the east coast to the west, and the Silicon Valley was born.

The Silicon Valley is a prime example of how advanced R&D tends to focus in clusters- geographically concentrated industries that maximize spillovers from firm to firm and between public and private researchers. Once research concentrates in an area, it is hard to displace, which is why DOE and other

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In Defense of Free Trade (A Response to “The Free Trade Blues” in Economix)

Blaming free trade for U.S. economic woes does not account for the difficulty of operating in a global marketplace increasingly dominated by mercantilism.

Photo of a globe

Review: Aid for Trade, 4 Years Later

Last week marked the fourth annual global review of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Aid for Trade (AfT) Initiative. Created in 2005 by the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Doha Development Round, Aft targets “behind the border” constraints to trade in least developed countries (LDCs) as well as strengthens their capacity to negotiate beneficial trade agreements. Essentially, Aft focuses on trade facilitation.

The AfT Initiative shines a light on the idea that the best possible “aid” we can give LDCs is free trade. Evidenced by its theme, “Connecting to Value Chains,” the fourth annual review called for “connecting the least connected countries.” More broadly, the value chain world we live in offers many entry points for firms to connect to the global trade web. And countries don’t need to produce final goods to be a part of that global trade web—increasingly we are a world focused on trade in services and tasks. Sixty percent of global trade is now in parts and components.

Production networks stretch worldwide—Senegal assembles Indian cars, Ford has facilities in Vietnam, and Samoa produces automotive harnesses. As WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy puts it, “you do not

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Flag of Bangladesh

The Unexpected Connection between Workers’ Rights and Mercantilism

Yesterday, President Obama announced the suspension of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits for Bangladesh. The suspension comes on the heels of outrage regarding labor conditions after an April factory collapse in the South-Asian nation killed more than 1,200 people. According to Obama, Bangladesh was not taking steps to protect internationally recognized standards of workers’ rights to its employees.

This removal of tariff breaks by United States makes a compelling statement, not only to Bangladesh, but also the rest of the world, about the importance of embracing accepted global standards to drive innovation and economic growth. As Bangladesh’s biggest trading partner after the European Union, the United States is well-positioned to leverage its trade policy in order to exert significant pressure on the Bengali government to reform its labor practices. As USTR Michael Froman stated, “The Obama Administration is committed to reflecting American values in our trade policy, including with regard to the rights of workers worldwide.”

GSP benefits are a privilege and should only extend to those countries that put into place policies that spur innovation and economic development. In other words, preferences need to go to countries that

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