RCEP trade ministers meet to reach compromise on intellectual property protections

RCEP trade ministers meet to reach compromise on intellectual property protections

Japan was expected to host ministers from 16 Indo-Pacific nations negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal overnight

174e98cc89da45548651b753812f62b0

Photo: Reuters

Japan was expected to host ministers from 16 Indo-Pacific nations negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal overnight to advance negotiations.

While Tokyo generally agrees that concluding negotiations by year’s end is ideal, its insistence on intellectual property protections remains a key sticking point. Meanwhile, other countries have their own issues to iron out—India, for one, is concerned about provisions that might open up its market to competitors.

Indeed, a leaked draft of a 2015 RCEP document outlined Japan’s wish for patent protections to be strengthened. With strong protections for patents allowed in the revised TPP deal, signed on March 8 and close to ratification by Japanese lawmakers, it appears Tokyo is keen for similar protections in RCEP.

The problem with strengthening intellectual property protections—particularly for medicines—is that it would decrease access to those products for developing countries, as cheaper generic copies of those new products would be banned. As such, expect Japan to meet resistance from ASEAN countries in particular. Tokyo is likely to propose a compromise on these protections in exchange for higher market access overall. For example, India faces huge domestic opposition to opening up its market to foreign competition—particularly from China.

Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.