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Australia must take strong interest in regional trade agreement

27th February 2017

Australia’s future economic fortunes rest on negotiations for the proposed regional trade agreement for Asia-Pacific countries, after the collapse of the TPP agreement, QUT Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation Matthew Rimmer says.

Professor Rimmer said secret trade negotiations over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) were taking place this week in Kobe City, Japan.

Professor Rimmer, who opposed the TPP’s proposals on a number of ground including its intellectual property proposals, said the RCEP was potentially the leading economic framework for the Asia-Pacific region, and Australia must take a strong interest in the negotiations.

The proposed membership of the RCEP is based on ASEAN nations including Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. The negotiations involve ASEAN trading partners including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea and other nations such as China and India.

Professor Rimmer said Australia could not afford to take a back seat in Intellectual Property negotiations in the RCEP, which are already the source of ongoing debate among proposed member nations.

“The treatment of tobacco control, for example, will be fiercely contested in the RCEP. Wine producers will be affected by Australia and New Zealand’s push to have rules regarding the geographical provenance of their wares,” he said.

“In other words, IP issues are a key challenge for Australia in terms of our international trade and foreign relationships, and deserve rigorous, open analysis.

“The RCEP’s Intellectual Property chapter will be one of the most significant areas because IP is critical to economic growth, innovation and development in Australia and our Asia-Pacific neighbours.

“Copyright law is of critical importance to the creative industries, electronic commerce and the digital economy.

“Trademark law will affect branding and marketing of our and our trading partners’ goods and services while patent law has a significant impact on scientific progress and innovation, particularly in the realm of public health.

Professor Rimmer said IP provisions for future science and research in the RCEP that needed careful consideration and negotiation related to:

  1. Cybersecurity and the protection of confidential information, trade secrets and data.
  2. Plant breeders’ rights
  3. Indigenous intellectual property
  4. Food, soil and water in relation to IP and agriculture.
  5. Energy, resources and advanced manufacturing patent law
  6. Environmental change in the relation to access to genetic resources

“This area has the potential to bolster Australian exporters’ ability to trade in IP relating to innovation in science and research.

“The ongoing debate on the content of the RCEP’s IP Chapter has seen Australia hope to build on its existing free trade agreements with the US, Korea, China and Japan, while other countries argue it should reflect multilateral frameworks such as the World Intellectual Property Organization’s IP agreements.

“The countries participating in RCEP are some of Australia’s top trading partners. Not surprisingly, the Government hopes the RCEP will help harmonise and consolidate a number of our existing bilateral trade agreements while broadening our free trade area in the Asia-Pacific.”

Media contact: Rose Trapnell, QUT media team leader, rose.trapnell@qut.edu.au or media@qut.edu.au; 07 3138 2361 or 0407 585 901.

 

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