By Ashley E. Mergen
Senior Manager, International IP Policy
Global Intellectual Property Center | U.S. Chamber of Commerce
With the all the hysteria flying left and right in this election cycle, it’s no wonder folks are second-guessing why the U.S. even pursues free trade agreements. But the overheated rhetoric of presidential campaigns is obfuscating what really is at stake- American competitiveness.
The United States is already among the most open markets in the world – and has been since the end of World War II. That openness has honed the edge of American competitiveness and helped stem the price inflation that fuels inequality. Trade agreements are a tool to ensure that U.S. products and services have the same fair and non-discriminatory access to international markets.
As the leader of the free world, the U.S. has worked to shape the rules of the road in the international economy. Free trade agreements are one of the most effective mechanisms for doing so. The alternative to U.S. free trade agreements is a global economy shaped by others who don’t have America’s interests at heart. The world is not sitting still: The World Trade Organization counts 419 trade agreements in force around the world, while the United States is party to only 20.
It’s true that 21st century trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are growing even more complex, especially as they tackle emerging and critical issues like intellectual property rights in digital trade or biopharmaceuticals.
But knowledge-intensive trade isn’t limited to big corporations or scientists curing cancer. It is also providing a significant platform for entrepreneurial women to connect with previously untapped markets.Take Lolita Healy, who after obtaining her first copyright at the age of 12 built a multi-million dollar empire painting designs on glassware, eventually selling 14 million products around the world. Lolita is just one example of the 40 million Americans who are employed by the creative and knowledge-intensive industries. The U.S. Department of Commerce has found that they represent over a quarter of all jobs in the economy, driving 60% of total U.S. exports.
The best part is, there are Lolita’s everywhere- from Michigan to Malaysia or Pennsylvania to Peru. This year’s International IP Index from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that economies which espouse meaningful and robust IP rights also enjoy more access to venture capital, more foreign direct investment, more R&D expenditure, more growth in high-value jobs, the list goes on…
Trade agreements like the TPP and TTIP continue this path to prosperity by ensuring innovation — the very cornerstone of the business community — remains protected as we expand markets abroad. So before you buy into the hype, take a look behind the curtain and see how trade really puts our innovators front and center on the world’s stage.