The Hill: Intellectual property protections should be at forefront of NAFTA discussions

Originially published in The Hill on 03/23/18 03:15 PM EDT

A recent Morning Consult poll, conducted on behalf of ACTION for Trade showed that 73 percent of respondents believe that the renegotiation of NAFTA must include increased IP protections for our nation’s creators, inventors and entrepreneurs. It is time for the administration to catch up with the American electorate and put IP protection first when it comes to NAFTA negotiations.

I believe in the principles of free trade and open markets. I know that fewer barriers to trade benefits American workers and consumers, not to mention, creates a better quality of life for workers around the globe. I also fully support increased IP protections for American innovators and creators – furthermore, I believe international trade agreements are the best way and most practical to expand those protections that offer continued support to American products in global markets.

Eighty-six percent of American voters believe that continued innovation is necessary for the United States to remain competitive as a leader in the global economy. They are absolutely correct. Ninety-one percent of respondents believe that American innovation and inventiveness are important aspects of domestic economic growth. They are right, again. And finally, 56 percent of Americans believe that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is good for our economy.

Moving forward with NAFTA negotiations, we should set IP protection at the center of these talks so that we are able to create a fair environment for our country and our trading partners. America continues to be a leader in the biopharmaceutical industry. It is a crucial industry for our economy that was valued at $450 billion in 2016 alone. The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on patent protection to develop new drugs and treatments, and developing a new drug has the potential of costing $2.5 billion - according to a study by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Through patent protections, American-created pharmaceuticals, medical treatments, and medical devices are

But IP protection also goes beyond one single industry – It moves creatives, innovators, and artists to work and develop new ideas. American software code has created new internet platforms that keep businesses, families and friends connected and the world a smaller place. American-inspired film, music, and literature are changing hearts and minds in every corner of the globe – contributing to culture and entertaining billions. Robust IP law protects all of this. Furthermore, creates high-paying jobs for skilled workers across America. For example, the underlying technology at Apple alone is responsible for a supply chain that supports over two million jobs in the United States. It is crystal clear that American innovation continues to be a pioneer, not only in our country but across the world.

Building positive trade relationships with our allies must be a priority for America’s economy to thrive and succeed in the 21st century and beyond. IP protections must be a priority in all trade relationships. Free trade only gives Americans and the industries across the country more opportunity to grow and develop new technologies. If we continue to build more barriers for trade we will only shut down further opportunities for our local industries and for American workers who benefit from trade. Not to mention, all the jobs that could be affected along with all the small businesses in the country. Let’s keep advocating to support small business owners, American workers and all the industries who believe in free trade and in fair IP protection – and, let’s continue to build better and more equal relationships with our trade partners, without placing further obstacles for these most important and key relationships.

Sara Croom is Executive Director of Trade Alliance to Promote Prosperity

Ainsley Shea