The USTR’s Special 301 Report
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The 2010 Special 301 Report once again signifies the importance of intellectual property to our economy. As this report suggests, violations of IP rights are an impediment to economic growth, innovation, and job creation around the world. It also serves as a reminder that nations that do not play by the rules will be singled out.
The Special 301 process is a critical mechanism for Congress to assess who is playing by the rules of the global trading system, and more specifically, whether countries are adhering to their obligations under trade agreements. This is an important tool for policymakers to ensure that trading partners provide U.S. creators and innovators with adequate and effective protection of their IP. The Special 301 Report is also an essential measure of the investment climate for businesses small and large who wish to export their products to foreign markets, conduct business with foreign firms, and buy from suppliers in those countries.
Over the last few years, the Special 301 Report has played a role in turning around bad actors. Earlier in February, USTR announced that Saudi Arabia and Israel would be removed from the Special 301 Watch List. This was also the case for Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary—which have been removed from the list this year as a result of commitments to significantly improve their IPR regime.
While the Special 301 Report process has produced results, we believe that the process must be improved. The Chamber urges Congress to enact legislation to enhance the tools available to the administration to engage more effectively with countries that fail to respect and enforce the rights of American innovators and live up to their international IP obligations. This legislation should require an action plan for Priority Watch List countries that includes clear benchmarks to measure performance, and meaningful consequences for nations that fail to perform.
Protecting intellectual property is vital to America’s economy, and now more than ever, Congress should act in the best interests of our nation’s innovators. A recent study just released by NDP Consulting indicates that IP-intensive industries—such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and computers—not only create jobs in the United States, but also pay their workers better, export more goods abroad, and account for higher levels of productivity than non-IP intensive industries. Innovation creates jobs, and it is in the best interest of the United States to protect the IP rights that promote it.
The Chamber commends USTR on the release of their report, and we look forward to working with them to strengthen the process as we move forward.
// updated 4:08pm to expand analysis