As someone who has studied global economic trends for decades, something great is potentially about to happen. Leaders from 12 nations across the Pacific Rim region, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Mexico, are about to reach an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal that has been in development for at least six years.
Given the fact that the countries negotiating the pact account for 40 percent of global GDP, the TPP will serve as a model for future multilateral trade agreements, providing a "gold standard" for how trade should be conducted in the 21st century. Furthermore, the deal will set a new framework for many areas of trade enforcement, including around intellectual property, enhancing the development of new technologies that will continue to change the world. Everybody wins.
Now for a reality check. None of this is guaranteed. In fact, there are signs that a final TPP agreement could have significant flaws as it relates to the protection of IP. Such a deal wouldn't just pose a threat to the U.S., but to global innovation. The good news? This worst case scenario is preventable, but proponents of free and open innovation-based trade need to act now.
Strong intellectual property protections have helped the U.S. create a thriving culture of innovation, one that rewards innovators for the risks they take and sets them up to properly pursue their next great idea. This cycle has allowed our nation to become the most innovative in the world, as innovation-based U.S. companies have been able to invest heavily in the research and development needed to discover such revolutionary concepts as the iPhone and new biologic drugs.
While the products, discoveries, and investment generated from this cycle of innovation are rewards in and of themselves, the economic impact that they create demonstrates how imperative it is to preserve and protect innovation-based industries. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, America's innovation industries account for almost 35 percent of U.S. GDP and support 40 million jobs. Additionally, this innovation-centric environment entices both foreign and domestic investment in the U.S.
America has the opportunity to share these benefits with all TPP nations, and potentially others, by remaining steadfast in its commitment to only accepting a final agreement that includes IP protections that are at a minimum equivalent to U.S. standards. This includes proper patent, copyright and trade secret protections, effective mechanisms to prevent counterfeiting and digital piracy, as well as 12 years of data protection for innovative and incredibly complex biologic medicines. The inclusion of these specific provisions, among many others, will establish a fair and balanced environment where all innovative companies operating within TPP nations can thrive.
In addition to having sufficient data to make their case, U.S. leaders also have broad support on this topic at home, as many different groups realize the multi-faceted impact that protecting innovation can have on both the economy and patient health. Many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have expressed their staunch support for the need for a strong IP chapter in the final version of the TPP. Additionally, numerous business and health advocacy groups have voiced their firm commitment to the need for effective IP rights in order to protect the culture of innovation. ITIF, along with the Global Colon Cancer Association, led a group of over 100 groups in sending a letter to the President and other U.S. Government officials urging them to protect IP standards and regulatory policies as part of our trade agreements.
The next round of TPP negotiations begin in Hawaii on Monday and it is highly probable that this meeting could be one of the last before the pact is finalized. As we reach the potential end point, effective IP protections cannot be overlooked. In fact, just the opposite is needed. It is time for the U.S. to help bring the other TPP nations up to our level and share the benefits of an innovative economy. Every participating nation stands to benefit with innovation as the driving force.