Playing to our strengths: growing our innovative economy one trade agreement at a time

Gina Vetere Executive Director for International Intellectual Property, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
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The United States houses some of the most innovative and creative businesses, inventors and artists in the world. These industries are America’s “bread and butter” — our competitive advantage in today’s knowledge-driven global economy.

It is therefore essential that we seize all available opportunities to further the growth and competitiveness of our innovative industries. This includes securing free trade agreements with strong intellectual property protections.

This week presents a significant opportunity to advance that goal.

Negotiators representing nine countries from four different continents on both sides of the Pacific are currenty meeting in Melbourne, Australia to hammer out a 21st-century trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Through this agreement, the United States and its eight trading partners — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — can set the template for all future Asia-Pacific trade deals.

In the President’s 2012 Trade Policy Agenda, released late last week, the administration highlighted its goal to “advance a robust intellectual property chapter” in the TPP negotiations. America’s innovative and creative industries whole-heartedly support this goal. Securing gold standard intellectual property protections in the TPP is essential to growing these industries, as well as the innovation and jobs that they support.

The administration has also set a goal to double U.S. exports by 2015 as part of its National Export Initiative (NEI). America’s intellectual property-intensive industries are key to reaching that goal. These industries not only employ more than 19 million Americans, but they also drive 60 percent of U.S. exports. The TPP must provide real market-opening opportunities to our IP-intensive industries and assurances that American ingenuity will be protected and our intellectual property rights enforced.

The United States must not only negotiate strong intellectual property protections with new trading partners, but we must also ensure that our existing agreements are implemented and enforced. Any failure on the part of our trading partners to live up to their intellectual property commitments comes so at the expense of U.S. innovators, creators and workers.

Strong and effective intellectual property protection and enforcement not only benefit the United States. Sound intellectual property laws and policies can help bring investment, innovation and jobs to all TPP countries. They are essential ingredients to incentivizing the innovation and creativity that lead to the development of original works, life-saving medicines and environmentally friendly technologies as well as the promotion of valued brands. The benefits of these advances are shared with consumers and patients around the world and make our lives better.

The U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, which sets a high standard for intellectual property protection, will shortly be entering into force. This marks an important step forward for advancing new opportunities for our innovative and creative industries. The agreement’s intellectual property chapter should serve as a model for the TPP negotiations.

At such a critical time in nursing our economy back to health, America’s competitive edge is something we clearly cannot let slip away.

Now is the time to ensure that the TPP agreement reflects a gold standard on intellectual property that can serve as a template for trade agreements to come. More than 19 million jobs are depending on this.

Gina Vetere is the executive director for international intellectual property at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.