Speaker Pelosi, it's time to throw American innovators a lifeline
© iStock

Most people probably agree that there should be protections against the criminals who pirate films, violate patents, plagiarize books and counterfeit artworks. Time and again, we have heard stories about imitations coming from overseas. Thus, it is especially important that American innovators and creative people be protected as much as possible from foreign imitators who are, effectively, thieves. These imitators are plundering intellectual property, often for big treasure.

The United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA) on trade would provide an opportunity to protect the most creative and innovative people at home and abroad. The USMCA would dramatically update NAFTA, a similar agreement reached in 1993, before the internet and cell phones proliferated our society and the world. Given this changed context, America’s trading partnerships have become imbalanced, especially in the area of intellectual property.

Among other provisions, the USMCA contains a chapter with strong protections for intellectual property such as copyrights, patents, and data. Here are just a few examples of what the USMCA includes:

  • Full national treatment for copyright and related rights.
  • A copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years or publication date plus 75 years.
  • Copyright safe harbors to deter online piracy.
  • Enforcement measures required to be applied to the digital environment.
  • Minimum 15-year protection for industrial designs.
  • Strong civil and criminal trade secret protections, including against misappropriation by state-owned enterprises.
  • Requirements for customs officials to stop suspected counterfeit goods.
  • Requirements for criminal penalties and civil remedies for both satellite and cable theft.
  • 10-year data protection for biologic medicines.

These measures would help to protect the works created by U.S. artists, musicians, authors, actors and other “creatives.” They would protect the devices and products that U.S. inventors devise to improve our lives. Perhaps most significantly, they would provide protections for the U.S. scientists who are discovering miracle biologic drugs that are curing some of the most formidable illnesses we face. Without these protections, creative and innovative people swim in a market of sharks who are just waiting to snatch up any work and profit on it unjustifiably. This renders creation an uncertain pursuit and innovation a losing proposition.

The USMCA would modernize NAFTA to meet the needs of the digital age and to address the challenges that American creators and innovators face. It would ensure that Americans share in the benefits of the agreement, and it would help drive economic prosperity and encourage further innovation and creativity. 

Yet, just as negotiators have hammered out details for intellectual property protections being included in the USMCA, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats seek leverage for trial The Memo: Pelosi-Trump trade deal provokes debate on left MORE (D-Calif.) is purportedly poised to strip some of them from the agreement. By doing so, she would be pushing American creators and innovators overboard—throwing them to the sharks, that is—and denying them the lifeline that the USMCA’s chapter on intellectual property rights would provide.

In addition, Pelosi would throw overboard the many people who depend on America’s creators and innovators. Among the most concerning: Pelosi would be abandoning American hospital patients who are relying on the new medicines that likely would not be invented in the absence of intellectual property protections—patients would be marooned in the past. The USMCA would help ensure the availability of the most modern, most effective treatments that U.S. patients have come to expect.

Time is running out for Congress to approve the USMCA, and some members of Congress are expressing frustration with the leadership. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Horowitz did not find evidence Obama asked for probe of Trump Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Iowa), previously optimistic about passage, has said he is now concerned about ratification of the USMCA: “I’m worried, very worried, for the first time… I think it’s fair to say that the clock is ticking, and time is running out.”

It’s time for Captain Pelosi and her shipmates in Congress to right the NAFTA trading vessel by passing the USMCA, including its sturdy intellectual property protections.

Kent Kaiser, Ph.D., is a senior advisor for the Trade Alliance to Promote Prosperity, www.promote-trade.org.