Talks focus on copyright laws

Kuwait Times | 16 Feb 2008

Talks focus on copyright laws

By Ben Garcia, Staff Writer

KUWAIT: Government officials in Kuwait expressed their keenness over signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States but a senior US economic representative recently noted that talks with regards to the issue are ongoing. Shaun Donnelly, the US Assistant Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East, while speaking with local reporters at the US Embassy in Bayan on Thursday, described what he considered, the meeting as ’fruitful.’ The one-day meeting was held with senior Kuwaiti officials
including the Ministry of Information, and HH the Amir’s economic adviser, through a newly created body — the Trade Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

TIFA was formed to develop trade, investment and economic cooperation with Kuwait. Donnelly admitted there are some economic areas in Kuwait which need to be improved even though over the years, there has been significant improvement and talks with regards to the issue. The meeting was their third formal engagement with Kuwait after TIFA was created in 2004. "We have noted so many reform efforts made by Kuwait including liberalization since TIFA was created.

We understand the FTA is a major policy decision, and as far as I am concerned, there are still some on-going debates over some parts in some aspects, but what we have noticed is that Kuwait has expressed a very strong desire in signing the FTA with the US. We are prepared to do that and we fully understand Kuwait’s position. They are already open economy and significant progress has been made for both sides to move forward," he reiterated.

Kuwait, as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), was engaged in FTA talks with the European Union for more than 15 years, "so it is not just this one (FTA with US) that takes time to take off the ground.

Bahrain and Oman, according to Donnelly, were the latest GCC countries to sign the FTA. "The case with Bahrain was different. Kuwait was not as aggressive as Bahrain. They are quick to sign FTA after series of extensive discussion. Oman also took a step forward and so we believe Kuwait is on its way," he added.

Asked on the subject discussed with the Information Ministry officials, he noted that it was all related to intellectual property rights, including copyrights, patents and trademarks. "Our industry has noted a noticeable increase in enforcing copyright laws here — both on the part of the Information Ministry and the Customs Department, and this would be an important issue in the FTA," he said.

He cited the current intellectual rights law in Kuwait which dated back in 1999 and that with the constant evolution of pirating methods, laws had to stay ahead of these pirates. "We are not asking a special protection for the US products alone, but for the benefits of locals and others intellectual properties. Pirating is a global problem and Kuwait is facing the same challenges the rest of the world is facing," he concluded.

Donnelly also discussed regional issues and bilateral concerns with Kuwait’s Commerce and Trade Undersecretary Rasheed Al-Tabtabaei. The next TIFA meeting will be held next year but talks with regards to trade and investments will continue throughout the year with the assistance of their trade missions in both countries.

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source: Kuwait Times