Manufacturers in the United States depend on strong intellectual property (IP) protections at home and abroad that allow them to create new products, grow their businesses and thrive in the global economy. That was the core message delivered by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) yesterday in its detailed submission to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) about the need for government action to protect U.S. IP rights.
In his January 30 State of the Union address, President Donald Trump underscored the strategic importance of strong IP for manufacturers, noting that his administration “will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of our trade rules.” Indeed, innovative manufacturing faces growing challenges, including increased global infringement of IP, including patents, trade secrets, trademarks and copyrights, in markets like China and India. These attacks on IP directly hurt the ability of manufacturers in the United States to innovate and create well-paying jobs.
The NAM’s submission for USTR’s Special 301 report identified IP problems in nearly 50 foreign countries and highlighted cross-industry trends that are harming manufacturers and jobs in the United States. These trends include problematic attacks on IP rights in international organizations and forums, increasing challenges to the legitimate use of patents and trademarks, weak trade secrets protection in key markets and rampant counterfeiting and piracy around the world.
The NAM spotlighted a group of 10 countries with major issues, asking the USTR to prioritize and designate them for priority action. Many of these countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Colombia and Russia, have long been in the NAM’s top-five countries of concern. This year’s report elevates the level of concern for Canada, due both to new negative developments impacting innovative manufacturers and to the lack of progress towards a strong, enforceable IP chapter in the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.
The NAM’s submission—and request to testify during the Special 301 Subcommittee’s February 28 hearing—will inform USTR’s Special 301 report, slated for release in April. In that report, the USTR will identify actions taken by other countries that deny adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement and cite particular countries for follow-up action.
Innovative manufacturing is central to the American success story, with IP serving as core assets that drive competitiveness of our manufacturing base. Manufacturers across the country call on the U.S. government to use every tool in the toolbox to promote strong IP protections. These include not only strong, enforceable IP protections in trade agreements but also active use of bilateral negotiations and a strategic, results-oriented use of domestic enforcement authorities consistent with the international rules-based trading system. U.S. government agencies must also actively engage with like-minded allies and international platforms and operate creative training programs with foreign governments to cultivate other pro-IP voices.
Given the scope of the barriers they face abroad, and the activity of foreign governments and actors, manufacturers in the United States demand nothing less than the full toolbox of actions to open new markets and break down barriers.
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