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This Week In Trade

TPP IPR Meetings, Americas Summit, Airbus Case Headline Week In Trade

Posted: April 09, 2012

Posted: April 9, 2012

Among other issues topping the trade agenda this week, U.S. trade officials handling intellectual property rights are slated to meet April 9-13 with negotiators from other countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks in order to see whether they can make further progress in the intellectual property rights chapter, one of the thorniest areas of the TPP talks.

U.S. negotiators did not make as much progress as they would have liked on IPR issues at the last full negotiating round in early March, and are hoping that the inter-sessional meeting this week will help to advance the talks in this area ahead of the next full negotiating round that will be held next month in Dallas. The IPR talks this week will focus primarily on enforcement, not the toughest access to medicines issues, according to USTR.

On a separate track, USTR is coming under increasing pressure to develop its position on whether Japan and Mexico can join the TPP talks in the next month or so. Mexico has asked USTR to make up its mind by the end of the month, while Japan hopes to secure U.S. support for its bid by early May, when its prime minister may visit Washington.

Also this week, USTR Ron Kirk and Deputy USTR Miriam Sapiro will accompany President Obama in Cartagena, Colombia at the Summit of the Americas, which occurs every three years and is taking place April 14-15. One observer said the summit will likely focus on economic competitiveness, education and energy issues, but not trade directly.

However, Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos are slated to hold a bilateral meeting on April 15, where the pending implementation of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement is likely to come up.

The Santos administration is trying to pass a package of measures necessary to implement the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement before Obama arrives in Cartagena. After making progress on this front last week, Colombia appears to be ready to get all these measures in place by the end of this week.

Even if the Colombian Congress passes these measures this week, however, the FTA is not likely to go into effect before the second half of the year due to the requirement that Colombia's constitutional court review several IPR treaties required for FTA implementation.

On the U.S. side, President Obama has said he will not allow the FTA to enter into effect until Colombia has complied with key provisions of a bilateral action plan to improve labor rights in the country.

In the expectation that Obama could make such a determination during his trip to Colombia, which would represent a step forward towards implementation of the FTA itself, U.S. and Colombian human rights groups have released new reports claiming the Colombian government has not fully complied with the labor action plan.

Just days before the summit, Obama is meeting today (April 9) with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in order to discuss a wide range of issues, including agriculture, energy and the global economy. Kirk also signaled at a hearing last month that the U.S. side will use Rousseff's visit in order to discuss a new Brazilian barrier to U.S. ethanol exports.

Before they depart for the summit, Kirk and Sapiro will also participate in a White House "Conference on Connecting the Americas" on April 12 in order to discuss the role of trade and commerce in the region.

To kick off the week, USTR announced this morning that the U.S. and Brazil have agreed to recognize certain distilled spirits, such as "Tennessee Whiskey," as distinct products. The U.S.-based Distilled Spirits Council lauded the agreement, arguing that formal recognition in Brazil of U.S. whiskey products is critical to ensure that only those products made in accordance with strict U.S. standards will be permitted for sale in the Brazilian market.

Of course, protection of product names can cut both ways. Even as whiskey exporters may welcome this protection, U.S. dairy exporters have launched a new initiative specifically designed to ensure that certain names that they use for their products, such as "cheddar" cheese, do not become protected in other jurisdictions, as desired by the EU.

On Friday, the World Trade Organization's Dispute Settlement Body will hold a special session in order to examine the U.S. demand for the establishment of a compliance panel in its challenge against subsidies provided to Airbus, the European rival of Boeing, according to a WTO notice.

The U.S. argues that the EU not only has failed to remove the subsidies or their adverse effects faulted in the May 2011 Appellate Body ruling, but also has taken certain steps as part of its compliance efforts that "introduce new inconsistencies" with the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM).

During Friday's DSB meeting, the EU is also expected to press the U.S. to comply with a separate WTO ruling that faulted U.S. government research grants to Boeing as a violating the ASCM.