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September 23, 2014

Yes, Of Course, In Trade Agreements, the Devil Is In the Details

 
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Simon Lester, who I met earlier this year speaking at a Cato event, has a blog up over at Cato at Liberty giving a somewhat nuanced response to my new IPI Ideas on including IP protection in trade agreements.

His point, essentially, is that I'm being very general rather than granular in my argument. And he's completely right, of course. My argument in the piece IS a general argument; namely, that it's appropriate and important to include IP in trade agreements.

And, in fact, my general argument in favor is a response to the general argument that is being made by many, including Cato personnel, that IP should NOT be included in trade agreements.

So, in the face of a broad, generalized pushback against the inclusion of IP in trade agreements, I made a generalized argument in favor. And I think I succeeded. (You're allowed to make general arguments, and it's not a rebuttal to a general argument to say that you weren't specific.)

Now, to Simon's point, yes, the devil is in the details. And the text of trade agreements is devilishly detailed; in fact, that's why it takes months and years to negotiate such texts, whether in FTAs, at the WTO, or even IP-specific treaties at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

But all of those details CAN be negotiated, and exceptions and carve-outs can be made where necessary, in order to get a deal. That's what negotiators are good at.

But you have to either accept or reject the general argument first. If you accept that IP belongs in trade agreements, as it clearly does, then you open the discussion about the details.

If you reject the inclusion of IP in trade agreements, then you foreclose any discussion about the details.

So I guess my question to Simon would be this: Since you want to have a discussion about the details of IP protection in trade agreements, can I assume you accept the general proposition that IP belongs in there in the first place?




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