This week, chief negotiators from the 12 Pacific Rim countries currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement are gathering in Hawaii to continue deliberations surrounding this revolutionary trade pact, which will comprise 40 percent of global GDP once completed. The TPP, which is being hailed as a 21st Century trade deal, will reduce trade barriers among the 12 nations, which include the U.S., Canada, Japan and several countries in Southeast Asia, Australasia and South America. With 95% of the world’s consumers living outside the U.S., the TPP presents the perfect opportunity for the U.S. to capitalize on the burgeoning Asia-Pacific market as well as increase U.S. exports and job opportunities for American workers.
The Aloha State meeting is widely rumored to potentially be one of the last, which is welcome news to many considering the U.S. has been a negotiating party to the agreement since 2009. Many obstacles have been overcome in order for the TPP nations to reach this point, including the U.S. and Japan holding innumerable bilateral discussions to reach a compromise surrounding market access issues for automobiles and agricultural products.
However, one very important piece of the TPP remains to be determined and, if not completed properly, could ultimately render this supposed 21st Century trade deal ineffective as soon as it is enacted. Throughout this week, negotiators will focus on finalizing the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the TPP. While there are many different interests vying for negotiators’ attention on this important topic, they must remain focused on implementing commonsense mechanisms that will safeguard the future of global innovation. As the global leader in the research and development of innovative goods and services that have benefited the world’s consumers, the U.S. sets a strong example of how adequate IP protections can promote not only innovation but also competition.
For biopharmaceutical companies, the ability to continually create new treatments and cures for the world’s patients is derived primarily from the strong IP protections provided to these companies in the U.S. Since, on average, it takes 10-15 years and more than $2 billion to bring a new medication to market, innovators will only be willing to undertake that investment if they have incentives to do so. When discussing this chapter, negotiators must consider the effect that the TPP’s IP chapter will have on global health and advocate for the strongest level of protections, including 12 years of data protection for biologic drugs, the development of which will be vital to the future of medicine.
As negotiators embark upon this pivotal week, they must keep in mind the role innovation will play in the future global economy. If they do not, the TPP could be a missed opportunity.