We often take for granted that the “ordinary” things we use every day are in fact extraordinary inventions and breakthroughs that took years of investment, hard work, and commitment to bring to life. 

Among these are the technologies that allow you to watch a movie on a streaming platform or to read the new novel from your favorite author on your smartphone or tablet, or the life-saving medicine that wasn’t around 10 years ago, or even 10 months ago. Most of us can reach into our pockets or bags at any moment and pull out a patented, life-changing technology. You’re probably using one to read this. 

Behind every major innovation is an individual, a company, and an industry that brought it to life — many of which are American. The United States stands alone as the global leader in innovation. This is no accident. For decades, we have recognized the tremendous value of innovation and creativity and established a strong intellectual property (IP) system that consistently rewards, protects, and pushes the boundaries of future possibilities. This system attracted investment from markets with weaker protections and gave birth to the core driver, and future, of the U.S. economy.

An unlevel playing field with our trading partners threatens this future by handicapping and hampering creative and innovative U.S. industries. 

Trade enforcement and strong new trade deals are the keys to breaking this trend and putting U.S. innovators back on course. That’s why the recording, telecom, tech, motion picture, publishing, and other IP-intensive industries launched the American Creative, Technology, and Innovative Organizations Network for Trade (ACTION for Trade). ACTION for Trade is dedicated to shaping U.S. trade policy to protect our competitive advantage as innovators. We call on America’s trade negotiators to ensure our global trading partners properly reward and protect the innovation and creativity that drives our economic future and fosters development of tomorrow’s inventions. 

As the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations and other trade talks continue, it’s critical to prioritize policies that support our global leadership. The future of our economy is at stake. 

IP-intensive industries not only generate breakthrough products and new processes and ways to do things, they drive our economy through job creation, high wages and increased exports. In 2016 alone, U.S. innovative biopharmaceutical companies invested an estimated $65.5 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, bringing the total invested since 2000 to more than $600 billion. The industry supports almost 4.7 million U.S. jobs with average wages that are higher than most other industries, operates 192 FDA-registered manufacturing facilities in the United States, and accounts for exports in 2016 that exceeded $52 billion.

Unfortunately, some of our international trade partners are threatening this economic progress and the promise of future innovation with unfair practices. 

Take price controls. When trade partners arbitrarily set prices of innovative medicines, or peg innovative products to older, previous generation products, the incentives for future innovation falter. Canada is one of the worst actors in this space, with its Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, or “PMPRB”, grossly undervaluing innovative U.S. medicines. Not only does this raise numerous concerns under existing trade rules but it is also an area that a reinvigorated NAFTA must address. 

Or, take the failure to protect creative works on the Internet. Too many of our trading partners employ overbroad safe harbor provisions that deny copyright holders for music, television, film, and written works the ability to protect their work from infringing activities online. Weak protections for our inventions and ideas compound this dynamic. Strong trade deals and effective enforcement of trade rules can tackle this threat and allow our companies to compete on a fair playing field.

Other nations are well aware of America’s intellectual property leadership — and they want it for themselves. They are prepared to deploy every tool in their arsenal to undermine this leadership and bolster their own positions and industries in the process. They repeatedly undervalue and even steal U.S. inventions and ideas. Weak and unenforced IP and market access trade rules encourage this bad behavior. Let’s put a stop to this and protect our innovative advantage. We can start with a strong NAFTA.

All of the IP-intensive industries that are a part of ACTION for Trade stand at the ready to work with the administration and Congress to preserve and protect our creative and innovative industries and the nearly 60 million American jobs they collectively support.

Brian Pomper is the executive director of ACTION for Trade.





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