tpp why so secret? by Public Citizen (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/daKbUD
Today is World IP Day, which marks the creation of the World Intellectual Property Organization. Canadian policy has long preferred the use of international bodies like WIPO to advance its IP objectives, yet the intellectual property provisions in recently concluded trade deals such as the TPP and CETA run counter to Canadian strategy. That isn’t just the opinion of the many critics of those agreements. It is what government officials told International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland as part of her briefing materials.
The briefing document on intellectual property and the trade agenda, released under the Access to Information Act, leaves little doubt that trade officials are well aware that the Canadian position on IP in the TPP is inconsistent with our preferred position and that it will lead to IP trade deficits. The document states:
Canada’s preferred strategy is to establish international IP rules through multilateral forums such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, in the context of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Canada negotiated trade obligations that, while reflective of recent domestic reforms, are beyond those standards set through multilateral forums, and which will likely require amendments to domestic practice, such as in the areas of geographical indications (GIs) and patent protection for pharmaceuticals.
The Eli Lilly claim against Canada for hundreds of millions due to a court decision involving patent utility has attracted considerable attention with fears that the case foreshadows many more corporate lawsuits if the Trans Pacific Partnership becomes a reality. While the Canadian government has raised doubts about the independence of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce intervention in the case, the government must be a bit confused on where the U.S. stands on the issue. Yesterday, the U.S. Trade Representative issued its 2016 report on foreign trade barriers and stated the following on the case:
With respect to pharmaceuticals, the United States continues to have serious concerns about the impact of the patent utility requirements that Canadian courts have adopted.
That is consistent with the Eli Lilly argument, yet last month the U.S. State Department provided its own submission in the case. The U.S. government appears to undermine USTR arguments, seemingly siding with the Canada on the issue. The U.S. submission states each country has the right to determine how it implements the utility requirement, the possibility of revocation of patent rights, and for its patent laws to evolve:
The Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal that covers 40 per cent of the world’s GDP, has mushroomed into a political hot potato in the United States. Presidential candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders are all expressing either opposition or concern with the agreement. With the deal in doubt in the U.S., the Canadian government is using the uncertainty to jump start a much-anticipated and long-overdue public consultation.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that earlier this month, the Standing Committee on International Trade announced plans for hearings to be held across the country and invited all Canadians to provide written submissions by the end of the April. When added to the open call for comments from Global Affairs Canada, the government department that negotiated the TPP, the public has an important opportunity to have its voice heard on a trade deal that could impact virtually every aspect of the Canadian economy.
Yesterday I concluded my 50-day series on the Trouble with the TPP which examined the intellectual property and digital policy issues raised by the agreement. In addition to the posts on this blog, I’ve created some additional ways to work through the various posts including a Medium summary and Storify version with links to all 50 posts.
Nearly two-and-a-half months ago, I started a daily examination of the Trans Pacific Partnership focused on the intellectual property and digital policy issues raised by the agreement. My initial plan for the Trouble with the TPP series was to write for one month leading up to the planned signing in New Zealand on February 4th. However, the more I dug into the TPP, the more trouble I found. With this final post in the series, I wrap up the key IP and digital policy concerns with links to all the original posts.
Canadians interested in the TPP now have an opportunity to have their voices heard. The Standing Committee on International Trade has been conducting hearings on the agreement for several weeks and has announced plans for cross-country consultations. Canadians can provide written submissions by April 30th. Alternatively, they can ask the committee to appear as a witness. Details on the committee opportunities can be found here. In addition, Canadians can send their comments directly to Global Affairs Canada, which is managing the government’s consultation. The email address is TPP-PTP.Consultations@international.gc.ca.
Why should Canadians speak out on the TPP? The former co-CEO of Research in Motion Jim Balsillie, Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke, Ford Canada CEO Dianne Craig, the Sierra Club, Doctors Without Borders, Canadian library groups, innovation expert Dan Breznitz, former deputy chief economist at Global Affairs Canada Dan Ciuriak, Canadian publisher Don LePan of Broadview Press, political science professor Blayne Haggart, investment dispute settlement expert professor Gus Van Harten, my colleague Professor Jeremy de Beer, and the Canadian Labour Congress are among those that have voiced concern with the agreement. My assessment of the IP and digital issues in the Trouble with the TPP series identified at least 49 reasons: