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Int’l Intellectual Property Alliance supports US-Taiwan FTA


Asia Pulse News


Monday April 17, 2006

WASHINGTON, April 17 Asia Pulse — The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), an influential business entity, expressed strong support Thursday for the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Taiwan.

IIPA President Eric H. Smith asserted at a symposium on the topic of a U.S.-Taiwan FTA that IIPA members strongly support the signing of such an agreement, rebutting a State Department official, who said that "until now, no member of the U.S. business sector has expressed support for a U.S.-Taiwan FTA."

Smith made the rebuttal immediately after Priscilla Hoffman-Stowe, a State Department economic analyst, said at the symposium that he has not heard any voices of support from the U.S. business sector so far about the signing of a U.S.-Taiwan FTA.

It marked the first time that the IIPA — a private sector coalition comprised of seven trade associations representing 1,900 companies producing and distributing materials protected by copyright laws throughout the world — has expressed support for the U.S.-Taiwan FTA initiative since Oct. 2002.

During the symposium, sponsored by George Washington University’s Sigur Center for Asian Studies, most of the scholars present agreed that given Taiwan’s dynamic economy and the close ties between the United States and Taiwan, it is imperative that a free trade agreement be forged between the two sides.

However, they admitted, the U.S.’s foreign policy, or Washington’s stance on the cross-Taiwan Strait relations and the U.S. Congress’ reaction to that stance, could be major obstacles to the FTA initiative.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) began to conduct a survey on the economic impact of a U.S.-Taiwan FTA in February 2002. When the survey was released in October the same year, more than 120 U.S. companies were found to be supportive of the U.S. signing a free trade agreement with Taiwan, but the IIPA block expressed opposition to the initiative, saying that it would be inappropriate to have the agreement signed before Taiwan improved its intellectual property rights (IPR) protection.

In January 2005, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) removed Taiwan from its "Special 301 priority watch list" in recognition of the island’s efforts and progress in IPR protection. Taiwan had been on the "priority watch list" for four consecutive years dating back to 2001.

Political observers in Washington attributed the IIPA’s turnabout on the U.S.-Taiwan FTA issue mainly to the fact that Taiwan has made significant progress in cracking down on commercial piracy and that the Taiwan legislature passed IPR protection legislation in 2004.

The IIPA — which is comprised of most of the U.S. companies producing or distributing materials protected by copyright laws, including all types of computer software and entertainment software, movies, television programs, home videos, records, CDs, textbooks, professional publications and journals — is now more focused on rampant commercial piracy and counterfeiting in China.

 source: Asia Pulse