The effect of trade agreements on developing countries’ IP laws

The International Centre for Trade an Sustainable Development and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development have just published an interesting-looking paper that deals with the issue of how trade agreements affect the implementation of intellectual property rights by developing countries. One of my main conclusions from my dissertation was that while trade agreements with IP components (think NAFTA or the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement) definitely lead to IP changes in the target country, they also make it harder to achieve subsequent reforms because the United States (or the European Union) has already played its strongest card, preferential market access. I’ll be interested to see how this paper fits with my findings.

Time for some follow-up research, perhaps?

From the foreward:

The paper finds that PTAs are clearly drivers of significant reform in developing countries, as was rightly suspected by those who noted the far reaching nature of the provisions in these agreements; second, and importantly, the implementation challenge for developing countries is real and complex. In effect, implementation does not stop with the transposition of international trade obligations into the domestic legal system. Rather, it continues with the need to modify laws and enforcement practices. There is also the need to revisit international agreements with third parties, the interpretation of commitments, reporting requirements, as well as compatibilities with the domestic legal infrastructure and capacity. The paper thus emphasizes that PTAs become “live” agreements that must be actively managed over time. It demonstrates the variation in implementation of often similar obligations among PTA signatories, some adopting more innovative approaches, while others fail to make adequate use of flexibilities in existing obligations. …

One lesson that emerges from the paper is that countries engaged in negotiations over PTAs should already bear in mind the possible implementation challenges at the negotiation stage taking into considerations some of the examples it points out to. After signing the PTAs, the implementation of the process requires a detailed examination of the nature of obligations contracted and adequate use of any flexibility available and where necessary further elaboration of concepts and legal terms.

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