We were just talking about whether or not countries are really able to push back on the US’s attempts to export draconian anti-competition/anti-innovation copyright and patent policies elsewhere. Michael Geist points us to two cases where US trade representatives are going overboard in trying to get foreign countries to put in place stringent intellectual property rules. The first is in Costa Rica, which is included in the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Yet like with other free trade agreements that the US has agreed to elsewhere, this one includes draconian intellectual property law requirements. I still cannot understand why intellectual monopoly protectionism — the exact opposite of “free trade” — gets included in free trade agreements. At least in Costa Rica, a lot of people started protesting these rules, pointing out that it would be harmful for the economy, for education and for healthcare. So the Costa Rican government has not moved forward with such laws. How has the US responded? It’s blocking access to the US market of Costa Rican sugar until Costa Rica approves new copyright laws. Nice of the US, right? Bankrupting Costa Rican farmers to force Costa Rica to put in place a copyright regime it does not want.
Then there’s the Bahamas, where US trade representatives are demanding new intellectual property laws, claiming that the country is not in agreement with WTO treaties. Apparently, the USTR is particularly upset about the police force in the Bahamas not cracking down on the sale of unauthorized DVDs, CDs and counterfeit clothing. However, as the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce president notes, nearly all of those counterfeit products actually originated in the US — and that the majority of people doing the buying are US tourists. In other words, the issue is really with the US, but it seems to want everyone else to deal with it.