WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers and business leaders on Wednesday stepped up the push for strict intellectual property protections to be included in ongoing trade negotiations between the United States and European Union.
At a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on the potential benefits of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, lawmakers and business executives said strict intellectual property protections are an incentive for innovation and would not have the opposite effect as some fear.
“New products come from the incentive to develop through the promise of rewards of intellectual property,” said Dave Ricks, senior vice president and president of Lilly Biomedicines, a Indianapolis, Indiana-based global biopharmaceutical company.
“Without those rewards, it’s difficult to see where these new medicines would come from to begin with,” he said.
U.S. businesses want tighter intellectual property controls in any deal with Europe as well as in any agreement struck in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks Washington is holding with other 11 other Pacific Rim countries.
But some countries and free-speech advocates fear tighter intellectual property controls could hurt innovation and even hinder access to medical care, especially in the developing world.
IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million U.S. jobs, according to the United States Commerce Department, accounting for nearly 34.8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.
“For me to support a final agreement, it is absolutely essential that TTIP reflect the highest standard of intellectual property rights protection of any prior agreement,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the committee. “We must get it right.”
U.S. business leaders and lawmakers at the hearing said TTIP presented an opportunity to expand to global markets and that they want a deal finalized quickly.
The called on Congress to approve a fast-track rule called Trade Promotion Authority that would allow any deal to move through Congress without amendments.
“More trade means more jobs and more trade means a stronger economy,” said Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and chairman of the panel. “Congress needs to be a full partner in the development and execution of this agenda, and the best way to do that is to pass Trade Promotion Authority, and to do it soon.”
TPA, which expired in 2007, is considered vital to persuade countries to put their best offers on the table in negotiations, but budget fights and disagreements over the new healthcare law have distracted Congress and so far no bill has been introduced.
“It’s time for us to do our part - we must introduce a bill and pass it quickly,” Baucus said. (Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna)