INTA Says Asia’s Largest Free-Trade Agreement Will Drive Stronger Intellectual Property Rights

Published: February 15, 2019

With negotiations currently underway on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)-the largest free-trade agreement (FTA) in Asia and in the world-INTA has been voicing its views on the agreement through various means.

In January, INTA’s Harmonization Committee’s FTA subcommittee, along with input from the Anticounterfeiting Committee, submitted comments and recommendations on the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the multilateral agreement. In addition, INTA staff met with negotiators across the region to share the Association’s thoughts and to hear about progress on the IP chapter and the agreement overall.

INTA stated in its submission to negotiators, “INTA hopes that the agreement will deliver stronger, easier, and more accessible IP rights for the benefit of businesses of all sizes, the economy, and consumers.”

Sixteen countries, which together make up 45 percent of the world’s population and 40 percent of global trade, are currently negotiating RCEP. The negotiating parties are the 10 countries of ASEAN plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

The unique trade agreement covers a wide range of economies, including some of the world’s most developed countries and several least developed countries, as considered by the World Bank. Additionally, some of the countries are quite large. China, for example, is the world’s second largest economy by gross domestic product. Other countries are quite small-for example, Brunei, which has a population of less than 1 million people.

Due to this diversity, it is widely recognized that RCEP will not be as transformational, particularly in IP, as other trade agreements, such as the Comprehensive Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership.

INTA’s comments and recommendations regarding the negotiation of the RCEP, submitted last month, can be found here. The basic points cover many facets of INTA’s Model Free Trade Agreement, which itself is based on INTA’s Model Trademark Law Guidelines.

In its submission, INTA’s committees focused on one of the major problems facing trade in Asia: the trade in counterfeit goods. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, more than 80 percent of the world’s trade in counterfeit goods originates in Asia.

As part of INTA’s submissions process, the committees conducted research on how each of the 16 countries stacks up in terms of INTA’s model law guidelines provisions on cross-border and anticounterfeiting provisions. At first glance, the diversity of responses indicated that there is much to do in terms of harmonization in the region.

Among its recommendations, INTA suggested that countries adopt trademark infringement and anticounterfeiting laws that go beyond the minimum requirements of TRIPS Part III to strengthen the protection of trademarks and enhance the legitimate trade between nations; and on cross border, adopt a trademark recordal system with customs.

It is expected that the RCEP agreement will be concluded by the end of the year, according to information gleaned from meetings with negotiators and from press releases. The IP chapter is still open for negotiation, and, according to sources, still has about 80 outstanding issues to be resolved.

Although RCEP will not move the needle forward much on IP, it is a step towards greater harmonization in a very diverse region.

INTA’s Asia Pacific Representative Office, based in Singapore, represents the Association’s 815 members across the region. Working in collaboration with staff at INTA’s headquarters in New York City, the Asia Pacific Representative Office leads the Association’s policy, membership, marketing, and communications initiatives throughout this region. To learn more about INTA’s activities in the Asia Pacific, please contact INTA Chief Representative Officer Seth Hays at [email protected].

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2019 International Trademark Association