One of the highlights of President Obama’s recent visit to the Philippines was the announcement that the country has been taken off a special intellectual property watch list by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The president’s visit was part of a multi-nation tour of Asia.
The Philippines was first placed on the watch list in 1989 and has been on it continuously since 1994. Countries that are placed on the watch list are considered not to have a strong record of defending or enforcing intellectual property rights. They also can have barriers to trade based on intellectual property rights. Other countries on the list include Russia, India and, surprisingly, America’s NAFTA partner Canada. Being on the watch list can complicate matters when the subject of bilateral trade agreements comes up.
The president has concluded that the Philippines has enacted a number of regulatory and legislative reforms that have addressed the protection of intellectual property issues that have existed in that country. However he also stated that significant changes remain to be ironed out. The United States will continue to consult with the government of the Philippines to resolve any lingering issues concerning intellectual property.
The State Department notes that the United States is among the Philippines top trading partners and the largest source of investment capital. The Philippines, as a developing country, receives preferential duty free access to American markets. Hence that country has a powerful incentive to adhere to American standards where intellectual property protection is concerned.
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