USTR is announcing that it invites any trading partner appearing on the Special 301 Priority Watch List or Watch List to work with the United States to develop a mutually agreed action plan designed to lead to that trading partner’s removal from the relevant list. Agreement on such a plan will not by itself change a trading partner’s status in the Special 301 Report.
This year’s list includes Canada along with several Western European countries (Finland, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Norway) and dozens of other countries around the world. The total population of the 40 countries on the list exceeds 4.3 billion. Many of these are poor countries with per person GDPs of a few thousand dollars per year, yet the primary complaint tends to revolve around patent protection and approval for pharmaceutical drugs.
As discussed in the parallel post on Canada, the USTR Special 301 list should not be seen as a genuine, unbiased review of intellectual property laws. The opposite is true – it is an explicitly biased, industry-driven report devoid of any real analysis. Instead, the U.S. assesses how far it can push a particular country and uses the report to promote legal reforms that often extend far beyond international requirements or norms.