One way to do so is to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a historic trade agreement between the United States and eight of the most prominent and dynamic economies in the Asia-Pacific region.
The TPP will link America to a region involved in more than 40 percent of global trade, where U.S. exports totaled $618 billion in 2009. TPP countries together are the 3rd largest export market for American goods and the 4th largest for American services. Expanded trade under the Partnership will enhance investment, promote innovation and facilitate economic recovery.
Central to the success of the TPP is the establishment of strong intellectual property (IP) protection. Innovative American companies need a fair chance to recoup research and development expenses without seeing their products knocked off by foreign competitors undercutting them on price. With strong IP protection abroad, businesses have a greater incentive to invest in new products, and in turn, support high-quality jobs across the United States.
IP-intensive industries are crucial to our country's economy. There are a total of 75 diverse U.S. industries classified as "IP-intensive." An estimated $1 trillion in exports -- or 74% of our nation's total -- are driven by these industries.
Today, IP- dependent firms employ more than 55 million Americans -- nearly 30 percent of our total workforce and almost half of private sector employment. And jobs in these fields are expected to grow at a faster rate than the national average. For American job growth,  the TPP is crucial.
One of the most important elements of intellectual property protection the TPP must address is the provision for "data exclusivity" for research pharmaceutical companies.
At the forefront of pharmaceutical innovation in recent years is an advanced class of drugs known as biologics. These complex drugs, derived from living organisms, have enormous potential. Already, they have been successfully used to treat some of the worst conditions and illnesses, including Alzheimer's, cancers, and HIV/AIDS.
But developing these new treatments is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. It can take 10-15 years from discovery to government approval to bring a biologic to market. The costs can reach $1.2 billion.
Data exclusivity protection allows firms to keep their basic research data to themselves and out of the hands of would-be copycats. If competitors can obtain this basic data, they may be able to short-cut their way to a similar biologic, just different enough to skirt patent law protections.
Securing an adequate period of data exclusivity is essential to a successful outcome for the TPP negotiations. Research has shown a 12 year period is appropriate: sufficient time for pharmaceutical firms to develop their products and allow them a chance to recoup their research and development costs.
Without adequate data exclusivity safeguards, firms may simply cut back on research and development. That will stifle the discovery of breakthrough treatments and hinder job growth in a sector that, alone, directly employs more than 650,000 Americans and indirectly supports 4 million jobs.
From our country's tech and biopharmaceutical corridors to America's heartland, where modern agriculture is built on the foundation of intellectual property, protecting innovation will keep America competitive and prosperous.
Americans will benefit handsomely from a TPP with strong intellectual property rights protection, including a 12 year data exclusivity provision. Sealing this partnership and securing these protections will go a long way towards putting Americans back to work.
Panvini recently retired from the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, where he served as director of government affairs.