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Stand up for American jobs and innovation in trans-Pacific trade

In the surest sign yet that talks toward a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations are finally nearing a close, leaders from Australia, Japan, New Zealand and other countries across the region are busy pressing their case on a few remaining issues that are most critical for their domestic economies.  

Manufacturers expect U.S. trade negotiators to drive just as hard a bargain for American interests and for strong results in areas that define our competitive strengths. A final TPP deal must include binding commitments that open markets and level the playing field for all U.S.- made industrial products, facilitate trade and cross-border data flows that are vital for global commerce and safeguard overseas investment that helps drive U.S. exports. 

{mosads}Among the most essential outcomes for U.S. industry and their workers are robust rules and commitments on intellectual property rights. These rules and commitments are indispensable to protect the ideas, brands and innovations that increasingly enable the more than 265,000 manufacturers of all sizes across the country and the more than 12 million women and men they employ to succeed in a challenging global marketplace. 

Today, innovation drives and supports U.S. global leadership in manufacturing. Patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and other intellectual property rights account for at least 90 percent of the total market value of 10 industries—from traditional research-intensive sectors, such as telecommunications, to food and beverages, personal care products and transportation. Manufacturing as a whole contributes two-thirds of all U.S. private-sector research and development.  

Securing at least 12 years of protection for clinical trial and other data must be a top priority as U.S. negotiators work to complete TPP intellectual property rules. Established under U.S. law in 2009 as part of the Affordable Care Act, at least 12 years of data protection is vital to enable health care biotechnology innovators—the vast majority of which are small, start-up companies—to raise and invest the $2.6 billion it takes over more than 10 years to develop and bring just one new drug to market.  

U.S. firms account for 80 percent of the world’s research and development investment in health care biotechnology. The millions of Americans employed in this dynamic and emerging industry sector are revolutionizing the treatment of a wide array of chronic and infectious diseases, delivering breakthrough treatments that are saving and transforming lives and giving new hope to hundreds of millions of patients around the world.  

But health care biotechnology is a risky business. Less than 15 percent of new biologic medicines ever make it from preclinical studies to clinical trials and approval. Biologic medicines are complex and highly challenging to manufacture. Relative to treatments that contain traditional chemical active ingredients, they face unique hurdles to regulatory approval and are not protected fully and effectively by patents alone.  

A strong result in the TPP, including at least 12 years of data protection, would sustain U.S. jobs and help drive work underway on more than 900 novel biologic medications for more than 100 conditions. But without the right rules and incentives, the agreement could undermine America’s leadership and competitive advantage in this key growth sector, sending highly skilled employment and much needed investment overseas.  

Trade ministers from the United States and the other TPP countries have set their sights on an ambitious, 21st-century trade agreement that promotes innovation and supports jobs. To deliver on that promise, President Obama and U.S. negotiators must stand up for the interests of manufacturers and their employees and insist on commitments that are vital to their success today and into the future.

Dempsey is vice president of International Economic Affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.


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