Trans-Pacific Partnership an opportunity to enforce the intellectual property rights system
This past week the United States and 11 other countries met in Lima, Peru to discuss the free-trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). While the negotiations have been kept relatively secret there are a few topics that have been discussed publically (we are still relying on a leaked document from 2011). The major debates in these negotiations centers on how global markets can better protect copyright and patent laws abroad. One of the proposals seeks not only to protect, but to better enforce through sanctions, nation-states who willfully infringe on copyrights of other nation-states, especially in the media and movie industries. The major goal is to create free-trade agreements among the countries while also developing better mechanisms to protect the intellectual property rights of all states and individuals involved in the negotiations.
Free Trade has become something of an anathema in public policy debates and the public discourse. Depending on which side of the debate you are on Free Trade either destroys jobs in your country or promotes greater material wealth.
The proponents on either side of the Free Trade debate can be irascible in their arguments with each other. (Note: Free Trade, as discussed here, is not “free-trade” agreements with protectionist provisions – such as infant industry protections or trade adjustment assistance.)
Proponents of Free Trade, like Adam Smith and Fredrick Hayek, advance concepts like, competitive advantage and the division of labor from moral and economic perspectives. Those who oppose Free Trade believe that it harms both underdeveloped (Resource Curse and Dutch Disease) and developed (loss of jobs) nations. Consequently, those who oppose Free Trade prefer trade with protectionist programs to quell potential losses.
However, the TPP negotiations have aided in altering what Free Trade means for some industries. Free Trade used to be limited to physical goods such as, shoes or cars. However, with the myriad of technological advances in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the Free Trade arguments have grown to encompass patent and more importantly copyright protection concerns. And understanding how these fit into Free Trade and potential trade agreements is not precisely clear.