T&T OFF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY WATCH-LIST
The Special 301 Report of 2016 was recently released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative. The annual report identifies barriers to trade posed by inadequate or ineffective intellectual property law enforcement in other countries. This year, the report reviewed the protection and enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in 73 of the US’s trading partners including Trinidad and Tobago. In the latest report, Trinidad and Tobago has been removed from the Watch List. This is extremely gratifying for us at AMCHAM T&T.
Trinidad and Tobago, along with CARICOM counterpart Barbados, appeared on the Watch List in 2013 (only one other CARICOM country, Jamaica, has been on the Watch List, dating as far back as 2006). In the release of the 2016 Report, 15 countries in the Western Hemisphere have been flagged. These include three countries on the Priority Watch List (Argentina, Chile and Venezuela) and the remaining 12 (including Jamaica and Barbados) on the Watch list.
AMCHAM T&T played a critical role in bringing stakeholders to the table, to ensure that IP infringements were duly mediated, and in that regard AMCHAM T&T would like to recognize the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) for their action in addressing some of these challenges. AMCHAM T&T also engaged with the US Embassy during the Special 301 consultation process. We also advocated for our removal from the list at our various meetings in Washington DC at the US Chamber of Commerce and with US policy-makers. We remain committed to working with the private sector, regulatory agencies and government bodies to resolve potential barriers to trade and to improve the efficacy of our IP regulation system, which we must do even more effectively to stay off of the Watch List.
The Special 301 Report provides national and global policymakers with a roadmap to develop a stronger IP system and should engender not simply a reaction to a U.S. government report, but spur a deliberate investment in the innovative future of our own economies. Remaining off this list and similar categorizations means stronger IPR enforcement, protection and sensitization among stakeholders.
BILL TO SUPPORT DEEPER CARIBBEAN-US RELATIONS CLEARS US CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE
In other US-policy news, a bill to increase engagement with the governments of the Caribbean, the Caribbean diaspora community in the United States and the private sector civil society in both the US and the Caribbean has been introduced in the US House of Representatives. The Bill can be cited as the United States – Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016. It was sponsored by Congressman Eliot Engel and co-sponsored by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Undoubtedly, AMCHAM T&T along with the SOCA member organizations have been working to keep, not only Caribbean trade in services with the US, but general US – Caribbean relations on the front burner.
If passed, the Bill would require the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multiyear strategy focused on: outreach to the countries of the Caribbean and diaspora communities in the U.S., improving energy security, countering violence, ramping up diplomacy, and other priority areas. These priority areas include support for regional economic, political, and security integration efforts in the Caribbean region; encouraging sustainable economic development and increased regional economic diversification and global competitiveness;
In addition, the Bill requires the Government Accountability Office to produce two key reports: An evaluation of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and a breakdown of CBSI assistance provided to each country; and an evaluation of U.S. diplomatic engagement with the Eastern Caribbean. The former would undoubtedly assist Trinidad and Tobago as we attempt to tackle drug and arms trafficking and rationalize programs and spending in the fight against crime.
According to Representative Engel, “While they are sometimes overlooked, the countries of the Caribbean are profoundly important to the United States, and particularly to the many Caribbean-American citizens in the United States. With so many crises around the globe that demand U.S. attention, we can’t lose sight of our long-term interests closer to home but should instead strengthen and expand ties with our Caribbean neighbours”.
The multi-year strategy for United States engagement with the Caribbean region is to be submitted to the appropriate congressional committees no later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Act.
We at AMCHAM T&T intend to continue our engagement with Congress as we further develop our SOCA proposals for increasing business activity between the Caribbean and the US. We would be grateful for feedback or suggestions from our members in this regard.
Please read some of the SOCA background work at http://www.amchamtt.com/business-leaders-talk-us-caricom-services-trade-in-washington-advancing-soca-services-of-the-caribbean/ and let us know what we can do to create more opportunities for your businesses.
Read the full text of the bill here: https://democrats-foreignaffairs.house.gov/sites/democrats.foreignaffairs.house.gov/files/United%20States%20-%20Caribbean%20Strategic%20Engagement%20Act%20of%202016.pdf
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