Earlier posts have discussed how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – if it comes into force – will be part of the process of setting global rules across a wide range of issues, including intellectual property rights. The just-released Harper Competition Policy Review notes the importance of international treaty agreements in this area, and includes the following recommendation:

A separate independent review should assess the Australian Government processes for establishing negotiating mandates to incorporate intellectual property provisions in international trade agreements. Trade negotiations should be informed by an independent and transparent analysis of the costs and benefits to Australia of any proposed intellectual property provisions. Such an analysis should be undertaken and published before negotiations are concluded.

Protecting intellectual property is complex and contentious: it's not just a matter of rewarding people for having a bright idea. The key issue is how to foster innovation, and creating a monopoly through intellectual property protection isn't a first-best answer. Let's hope our negotiators have more guidance than is provided here

If the TPP goes ahead as scheduled, Ian Harper's recommendation will be overtaken by events, at least as far as the TPP goes. Would we pull back from signing if the intellectual property arrangements heavily favour intellectual property-owning countries such as the US? Not likely.

If the TPP goes ahead, we'll have to sign up or be left on the outer. It's not as if we can opt to stay in the old pre-TPP world. Our global environment will have changed and we'll have to go with the flow.

Photo by Flickr user Osbornb.