USTR’s 2015 Special 301 List

Every year USTR issues a list of countries targeted to be subjected to trade pressures over their policies on intellectual property rights. This year’s list was published on April 30, 2015. KEI has a copy of every version of the Special 301 list here: http://www.keionline.org/ustr/special301

USTR describes the list as follows:

The Special 301 Process
The Congressionally-mandated annual Special 301 Report is the result of an extensive multi-stakeholder process. Pursuant to the statute mandating the Report, USTR is charged with designating as Priority Foreign Countries those countries that have the most onerous or egregious acts, policies, or practices and whose acts, policies, or practices have the greatest adverse impact (actual or potential) on the relevant U.S. products. (See Annex 1). To facilitate administration of the statute, USTR has created a Priority Watch List and Watch List within this Report.

Placement of a trading partner on the Priority Watch List or Watch List indicates that particular problems exist in that country with respect to IPR protection, enforcement, or market access for persons relying on IPR.

The best way to appreciate the entire Special 301 process is to read a copy of the report. The 2015 version, including Annex 1 and Annex 2, is 83 pages. Generally speaking, the list is an edited down version of the complaints put forth by PhRMA and copyright publishers, moderated somewhat by the USTR staff.

There are some 37 countries singled out for the Priority Watch List, the Watch List and/or for the Out-of-Cycle Reviews, so the club of countries included is not very exclusive.

  • Of the so-called BRIC countries, three are on the Priority Watch List, and Brazil is on the Watch List.
  • Canada, as usual, is on one of the lists.
  • In South America, 9 of 12 countries are included in one of Watch Lists, including all countries with significant economies. Indeed, for South America, countries on one of the two Watch Lists have 98.8 percent of the region’s population, and 98.5 percent of region’s GDP. (See table)

In addition to the 37 countries put on one of the two Watch Lists, lots of other countries are mentioned in the parts of the report dealing with special issues, such as policies of drug reimbursements.

Overall, the Special 301 process illustrates how much of the Obama Administration is willing to serve big corporate rights holder lobby groups. Not as much as the trade associations want, but quite a bit more than they should.

The KEI comment on this year’s list is as follows:

“USTR once again demonstrates that US trade policy is more or less on automatic pilot, or controlled remotely by drug company and publisher lobby groups. In a world where skyrocketing prices for drugs for cancer, hepatitis and other illnesses are driving up health care costs and contributing to access barriers, where patent trolls are a drag on innovation and investment, where outdated and excessive term copyright laws orphan our cultural heritage and threaten new services and the creation of content, where our trading partners seek to create ownership of facts and news of the day, USTR focuses its efforts on making PhRMA members and established publishers richer, regardless of the costs or the policy alternatives.

USTR does not present or evaluate any new ideas for dealing with the trade related aspects of funding medical R&D other than raising drug prices, and it does not measure or address the damage to the economy of rent seeking patent trolls, or poorly designed and outdated copyright laws.”

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