International Coalition Demands Updated IP Protections in NAFTA

International coalition addresses NAFTA negotiators to strengthen intellectual property in new agreement.

In 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement came into force, Al Gore had not yet claimed his initiative created the internet, nor had Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens explained it was a series of tubes. Actually, “What is internet anyway?” was a fair question on NBC’s Today show.

Needless to say, the world has changed since then. Today e-commerce has disrupted Main Street brick and mortar stores while generating billions in value for the economy and created jobs that didn’t even exist in the 90s. Yet the NAFTA rules governing intellectual property have not kept pace with technological advances. Thieves and bad actors take advantage of the often unclear and uneven rules to steal IP, harness private data, and undermine free-market competition.

It is about time NAFTA is renegotiated. Property Rights Alliance has signed on to an international coalition letter addressed to the chief NAFTA negotiators from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada demanding they set a new “gold” standard for intellectual property protections.

The letter argues, “Beyond those envisioned in the TPP” tougher IP rights in the NAFTA region are important for many reasons: IP-intensive goods account for more than half of the trade between the three countries representing billions in value to their economies and millions of jobs; IP rights are human rights; they protect free-markets and human freedom; tougher standards spur economic growth; and they promise to usher in the next era of innovation and economic growth.

Lastly, the letter warns the negotiators not to accept “balance” or other novel and untested experiments that would use IP rights as a means to an end. Rights are an end in themselves. Ideas that weaker protections in certain industries can create greater market access while also continuing to incentivize innovation are preposterous.

The evidence is clear. Countries with the strongest IP protections have the most dynamic economies, are responsible for the most inventions and creative works, and enjoy an income per capita 13 times greater than those with the weakest protections – allowing even their poorest citizens access to the most essential goods. While countries with weak IP protections suffer. Their inventors emigrate, their artists are unable to make a living on their talents, and their economies are stagnant.

PRA and our coalition partners look forward to a new NAFTA with updated IP protections that will set a new global standard.