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January 9, 2017

Importation of Prescription Drugs: A Bad Idea

“Reimportation” of prescription drugs is back as an issue, but only because Democrats seek to distract from the effort to repeal and replace Obamcare, according to Politico. By importation we refer to the ability of American consumers to buy their prescription drugs from overseas rather than from domestic sources, and particularly to large-scale importation, such as US drug distributors sourcing their drugs from overseas.

There has always been some cross-border traffic on pharmaceuticals, as drug prices in Canada can be cheaper than in the US. But the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, which came into effect in 2006, has significantly reduced this traffic by making prescription drugs available to seniors at more affordable prices.

There’s a reason why such importation is illegal today under most circumstances, and that’s because of safety. The rate of counterfeit drugs in other countries is staggering, and the only way to keep the counterfeit problem from infecting the US drug supply is through the rigorous inspection and supply-chain regime maintained by the FDA. And the FDA has repeatedly told Congress that it cannot guarantee the safety of drugs entering the US from other countries such as Canada, since it does not inspect those facilities. And when the FDA has been permitted to inspect overseas facilities, the results haven’t been encouraging, such as the extensive and discouraging history of the FDA with Indian pharmaceutical manufacturer Ranbaxy.

Some on the free-market side of the political spectrum argue that importation of prescription drugs is simply a matter of “free-trade,” which at least up until the last few months has been a persuasive argument when presented to Republicans. But, as professor Richard Epstein notes in an IPI publication noted below, importation of prescription drugs is actually a perversion of free trade, in that it rewards other countries for their price controls and socialized medicine systems, rewards them for their disregard for the patents of American drug companies, and would likely create shortages of much needed drugs in poor countries as their drug supply was diverted back to the US. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

December 9, 2016

Mike Madigan, Not Sugar Policy, Driving Mondelez Out of Chicago

Our friends at the Illinois Policy Institute have invested a lot of effort over the last few years in documenting how high taxes, regulations, and political corruption and paralysis in Illinois are driving businesses out of the state.  The trend is large, and noticeable:

September 20, 2016

So It Turns Out That Trade Agreements ARE in America's Best Interests

We’re in a political environment right now where, stunningly, in a very short period of time, free trade and the treaties that liberalize trade have gotten a bad rap. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

May 27, 2016

Needed: Global Sugar Trade Liberalization, not Just a "Shakeup"

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

February 25, 2016

The TPP, Conspiracy Theories and Click-Bait

Die-hard opponents of free trade and intellectual property have plainly stated their intention to wage a smear campaign against the largest trade agreement in history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Their transparent and tone-deaf tactics have been lampooned as one-sided and overly simple, but still they strain to create fear and anxiety among consumers and users at every opportunity. This, despite mounting fatigue and annoyance from their own supporters. For example, Redittor “binarybandit” posted:

I've seen EFF doing this lately with the TPP bill. They've been using fear mongering to make people believe that they're seriously gonna go to prison for making a free mod for a game, or that it's gonna destroy the internet somehow. People are eating it up though.

Right on cue, the latest effort to invent controversy centers on a breathless EFF conspiracy theory – government lawyers have secretly expanded the scope of penalties for copyright infringement during a technical review of the TPP text by changing the word “paragraph” to the word “subparagraph” in a footnote. 

To be fair, it is true that this change means the footnote only applies to one part of the paragraph, and that does actually make a difference.  The paragraph at issue sets out rules for calculating and applying remedies for criminal theft of intellectual property, and the footnote allows countries to ignore those rules, except for more significant cases.  The change means only the last part can be ignored (except for more significant cases), not the whole paragraph.  Sensing an opportunity, the EFF pounces insisting there is “no rational basis” for the change.  Let’s examine that.

The very first obligation in the paragraph — where the footnote no longer applies — is that the punishment should fit the crime.  In the precise terms of the agreement, countries must provide “Penalties that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistent with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity.”  Now, if the footnote applied to this requirement, it would be saying that in lesser cases, the punishment doesn’t have to fit the crime and doesn’t have to provide a deterrent.  Would that make any sense to you? 

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

February 24, 2016

Exceptions & Limitations Harm the Creation of Culture in Developing Countries

I’ve just discovered the International Authors Forum (IAF), and I’m in love.

For one thing, IAF features prominently on their website and in their materials the critical text of Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, which states:

Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

It drives the CopyLeft and Access to Knowledge folks crazy that the key international human rights document includes intellectual property rights as a basic human right. Yes it does. They try to reconstruct the sentence sometimes to make it sound like it means the opposite of how it is written, but they’re wrong.

I’ve tried to make some hay over the years with this fact, not only writing about it, but also getting physically accosted by activists at a WIPO meeting where I dared to read out the text of Article 27 during an IPI intervention (more here). Ah, memories.

Anyway, the International Authors Forum has a great document [PDF] on their website where authors from around the world including developing countries explain how expanding copyright exceptions and limitations would be harmful to their attempts to produce cultural products in their own markets. It’s worth your time. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

February 12, 2016

GIPC Releases International IP Index, 4th Edition

On February 10th the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC), a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, released the fourth edition of its International IP Index. The Index is a mapping and ranking of the climate for IP-based innovation in the 38 economies around the world that account for nearly 85 percent of global GDP.

There is a ranking, of course, because people (and governments) like lists. And while the rankings easily lent themselves to highlighting on social media, the great value is the nation-specific discussion of changes in country policies that have improved their IP climate, and nation-specific discussion of gaps and areas for improvement. For instance:

  • Malaysia is noted for improvements in its IP climate, and its participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will result in further improvement in its IP policies.
  • Israel’s 2014 patent reforms, including data protection for pharma-related clinical data and patent restoration for biopharma.
  • But several European countries, including Switzerland, Sweden, Poland and Italy, are noted for lax efforts at combatting online piracy.
  • The BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are noted for continuing to tie IP protection to concessions on market-access and for an overall policy of using weak IP protection as a means of trying to favor their own domestic interests.
  • Even the U.S. is faulted for weak enforcement against trade secrets theft.
  • < Read More >>

    Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

January 29, 2016

Grading the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Derek Scissors of AEI published a paper back in December containing his analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which at some point one assumes will be submitted to Congress by President Obama.

Scissors is a free-trader who recognizes the need for such agreements in the absence of an effective WTO trade liberalization process. Based on several of his written pieces, Scissors 1) thinks the TPP as negotiated is distinctly better than no TPP, 2) is disappointed that the U.S. didn’t work harder to get a better deal, 3) thinks we should still try to fix the TPP within the framework of the existing parties to the agreement and, if that doesn’t succeed 4) we should fix the TPP at the cost of dropping countries that refuse to go along with the proposed fixes.

Earlier in November of 2015 Scissors wrote:

If this cannot work, free traders should not abandon the TPP. The next step would be to shrink the number of participants in the first round. 

Scissors recognizes that the business community is pretty solidly behind the TPP as an improvement the status quo.

Here at IPI, we’ll be writing a lot more on the TPP as the debate begins in earnest. But for now I wanted to highlight the fact that Scissors’ disappointment with the TPP do not stem from the most popularly criticized and controversial sections of the agreement, the intellectual property and agriculture sections. His chief criticisms are with the sections having to do with state-owned enterprises (SOE) and with the excessive number of exceptions that were granted to countries to simply not conform to the agreement in particular areas. It would have been far better to allow those countries longer phase-out times for those domestic considerations rather than simply granting them a carve-out from trade liberalization.

The strength of Scissors’ paper is how handily he rebuts the most commonly voiced arguments against the TPP. In particularly, as you might guess, I’m interested in his comments on the intellectual property section, which he grades at a B+. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

November 9, 2015

Rubio's Reasonableness on Sugar

It’s a little surprising to see the Wall Street Journal savage Marco Rubio in an editorial (Nov. 5).

Or maybe not. Rubio originally championed something like the Journal’s preferred loose immigration policy, until he got the political stuffings beaten out of him by the consensus of Republican voters.  Apparently the Journal editors would have preferred that Rubio’s candidacy had already been doomed by sticking with an immigration policy strongly disfavored by the voters. Being out-of-step with voters on one of the most intense policy issues is not a path to political success, as Jeb Bush is discovering. But the Journal’s editorial board is apparently still chapped over Rubio’s reality check on immigration, as they can’t help but reveal in the last paragraph of “Rubio and Big Sugar.”

By painting Marco Rubio as a thoughtless panderer to Florida’s sugar interests, the Journal editors do more than a disservice to one of our brightest and most principled presidential candidates—they create a straw man and then blow it over. Rubio has a considered position on the U.S. sugar program, and it’s worth an investment of time to understand it: Rubio wants U.S. sugar subsidies phased out as part of a global trade agreement, rather than unilateral disarmament on the part of the U.S. He believes that a negotiated treaty approach is the better and more sustainable long-term solution. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

November 6, 2015

On Obama's Rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline

The United States is the cleanest place on earth to refine oil. We have the highest environmental standards, the best technology, and the strongest rule-of-law institutions.

That Canadian oil is going to be refined somewhere. If not in the U.S., it’s going to be refined elsewhere. Contrary to Obama’s implication, that oil is NOT going to remain in the ground.

That means the Keystone XL pipeline was the best option for the environment.  Now that oil will be shipped by rail and by ship, where a spill is more likely and more damaging, where the refining will be more harmful to the environment, and where the jobs and other economic benefits will happen.

Just the latest example of how for liberal-progressivism, symbol is more important than substance. It’s about how it makes liberals feel, now—not about reality or the long-term impact of the policy. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

October 27, 2015

Ag Committee Hearing Properly Draws Attention to Problem of Foreign Subsidies

Trade policy is starting to get interesting.

Trade is back in the policy discussion with the Trans-Pacific Partnership having been concluded and many waiting to see the final text of the agreement. It’s a major agreement, and if it’s ratified by signatory countries, will have a dramatic impact on U.S. trade going forward.

But there are other trade issues as well, including enforcement of existing trade agreements as well as those countries and goods that are not covered under trade agreements.

That was the topic of a hearing held last Wednesday by the House Committee on Agriculture, led by Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX). The Committee is concerned about foreign agriculture subsidies that distort markets and target American producers.

Now, we’ve written before about this issue with a focus on the sugar markets. On the one ideological side you have people who overtly believe in protectionism in a mistaken pursuit of somehow benefitting American producers by protecting them from foreign competition and thus gifting them with artificially high prices.

On the other ideological side you have those who think that believing in free trade should mean immediately eliminating any policy that affects the flow of goods across our border. If other countries want to subsidize production of some good in order to gain market share in the world’s most lucrative market (the United States), we should let them. Unilateral disarmament, in other words. It matters not that they would put U.S. producers out of business—all that matters is that U.S. consumers would get lower prices, which is a net benefit to the nation. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

October 9, 2015

House Votes to End the Crude Oil Export Ban

The House of Representatives has just taken a major step toward reducing the U.S. trade deficit: ending the crude oil export ban. 

In 1975, when gas lines were long and voters’ tempers were high, Congress passed legislation prohibiting U.S. crude oil exports. The country had seemed to peak its oil production a few years earlier and was on a gradual crude oil production decline, and Congress wanted the country to keep every drop it produced.  Read More >>

Posted by Merrill Matthews | Comments

October 9, 2015

Congress Finally Does Something Useful and Lifts the Ban on Crude Oil Exports

We'll, here's some good news: The House voted today to lift the senseless and outdated ban on U.S. crude oil exports.

And while this may seem like a no-brainer, there are any number of no-brainer pieces of legislation that Congress isn't bothering to move, so this is progress.

There is no argument against allowing U.S. crude oil exports except for an extreme anti-fossil fuels mindset, which is as unrealistic as it is wrong.

Here's a piece written by IPI's Dr. Merrill Matthews on why the ban is outdated and should be repealed.

It's important for the Republican Congress to be passing this kind of commonsense legislation that the majority of the American people support, even if they suspect President Obama is going to veto it.

Let him. Force him to explain his rationale to the American people. Get him on record, and force all other Democratic candidates and elected officials whether they agree with the President or not.

One of the things that is so frustrating people right now is Congresses not bothering to pass good legislation because of the threat of a veto. In this baseball playoff season, Republicans need to stop playing wiffleball and start playing hardball. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

October 2, 2015

Let's Get Real about What's Fair in TPP Copyright Provisions

Last year I was invited by Bill Watson of the CATO Institute to make the case as to why it is critically necessary for U.S. negotiators to insist on strong IP provision in our trade agreements.  Intellectual property-intensive industries account for about two-thirds of U.S. exports – it would be malpractice for our negotiators NOT to work to prevent foreign theft of American innovation.

(I think I got the better of my fellow panelists at that event—you can watch it and judge for yourself.)

The TPP negotiators are in Atlanta this week trying hard to work through the last few, toughest issues, and Bill is back at it again, this time arguing that the United States should not only allow, but in fact demand broad exceptions to copyright in the laws of our TPP trading partners.  This again proves what I said last year – that the TPP debate is not really about trade, it’s about people who want weaker intellectual property rights.  (Bill was kind enough to reference this piece of mine in his, which is always nice.) Ok, so let’s have that debate.

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

July 31, 2015

The Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement Did NOT Blow-up Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Program

Right now, literally as I type this, Australian trade negotiators are reportedly resisting U.S. demands for increased protection of pharmaceutical and biotech innovation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. They are no doubt motivated by the warnings of Australian academics and researchers that Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which the Australian government uses to control drug prices, will be weakened or undone altogether by extending the period of data protection for biologics, among other provisions.

The sky-is-falling warning from these academic critics of the pharmaceutical industry is that protecting the products of innovation will necessarily result in dramatic price increases, which Australia (and Australians) will no longer be able to afford.

Interestingly, Australian academics made this exact same argument in 2003, warning Australia about the treaty that was then being negotiated, the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  

I have before me a copy of a paper published by The Australia Institute, entitled “A Backdoor to Higher Medicine Prices? Intellectual Property and the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement,” by Dr. Buddhima Lokuge, Dr. Thomas Alured Faunce, and Richard Denniss.

The paper predicted that the Australia-U.S. FTA would result in dramatic increases in the cost of prescription drugs in Australia.

“This paper examines five leading medicines near the end of their patent lives in Australia. Based on PBS expenditures for these drugs in 2003, we estimated the potential cost of likely changes to IP provisions under the FTA to the PBS and Australian taxpayers. The costs accrue over a four-year period from 2006 to 2009. . . . The ‘central case’ estimate is that the additional cost of these five drugs alone, as a result of IP provisions in the FTA, will be more than $1.12 billion with a lower estimate of $850 million and an upper estimate of $1.56 billion.”

But they were wrong then, and they’re likely wrong now. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

 

Total Records: 40

 

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