On April 30, 2021, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual Special 301 Report for 2021 on the adequacy and effectiveness of trading partners’ protection of intellectual property rights.
301 Report Highlights
- The Report’s Executive Summary stated that a priority of the Biden administration is to craft trade policy in service of America’s workers, including those in innovation-driven export industries. The Report therefore serves a critical function by identifying opportunities and challenges facing U.S. innovative and creative industries in foreign markets and by promoting job creation, economic development, and many other benefits that effective IP protection and enforcement support.
- USTR reviewed more than one hundred trading partners for the report, and placed thirty-two of them on the Priority Watch List or Watch List, listed below:
- Priority Watchlist: Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Venezuela
- Watch List: Algeria, Barbados, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam
- While the Administration continues to conduct a full review of U.S.-China relations, including trade issues, the USTR fact sheet states that recent steps to reform IP-related laws and regulations “require effective implementation and fall short of the full range of fundamental changes needed to improve the IP landscape in China.” USTR also notes the large quantities of counterfeit supplies related to COVID-19 that originated from China.
- Given the importance of innovation and IP in developing the advances necessary for fighting the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the Biden Administration is committed to trade policies that seek to save lives in this pandemic and ensure preparedness for the next one. USTR emphasizes that the U.S. “respects a trading partner’s right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all” as affirmed in the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, while signaling that it “continues to seek adequate and effective protection for pharmaceutical and other health-related IP around the world to ensure robust American innovation in these critical industries to fight not only the current, but also future pandemics.”
- In light of the Administration’s emphasis on environmental issues, the report notes that “strong IP protection and enforcement are essential to promoting investment in innovation in the environmental sector…IP provides incentives for research and development in this important sector, including through university research.” This appears to be an area that will be developed out further in the future.