Tomorrow (Oct. 1) in Japan representatives from several governments, including the U.S., are expected to put pen to paper and formally sign an international agreement to combat theft of intellectual property rights. As NEMA has pointed out repeatedly, product counterfeiting as well as trade- and certification-mark piracy are not just an issue for movies and handbags but also for some sectors of the global electroindustry. These can also present safety issues, as explained by the Electrical Safety Foundation International.
Countries joining the U.S. in signing on to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) include Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, and Singapore. Other countries, including European Union members, are considering signing soon as well. Broad membership and support from many countries is critical, since this type of crime easily crosses international borders. The ACTA is aimed at improving and harmonizing governments' enforcement of existing laws, rules, and procedures for combating counterfeiting and piracy. The ACTA is scheduled to remain open for signature by World Trade Organization members until March 31, 2013.
Action is expected early next week on Capitol Hill on the 3 pending Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia — U.S. labor union activists are expected to protest that trade agreements allow U.S. companies to send jobs overseas. The Obama Administration has not sent the FTAs to Congress yet, which it must do under the special procedures used for considering such agreements, but all sides seem to realize that there are enough votes in both Houses of Congress to approve all three. The President wants assurance that Congress will pass and send him a bill renewing the Trade Adjustment Assistance program that passed the Senate last week. Let your member of Congress know that you support the FTAs.
The numbers don't lie – the U.S. electroindustry has a trade surplus with the growing markets of Colombia and Panama and balanced trade with South Korea. But in the cases of Colombia and Korea, major competitors have gained better access to those markets in recent months due to their own trade agreements. Without the FTAs, the U.S. is not in a good competitive position to retain jobs let alone create new ones. Can it be true that U.S. labor unions favor more job creation in Canada and Europe than they do here in the U.S.?
Some key dates are coming up:
- President Kim of South Korea is scheduled to visit President Obama on October 12. South Korea is already one of the U.S. electrical equipment industry’s top ten export markets. The "KORUS" FTA would improve conditions for selling there by featuring the elimination of 5-8 percent tariffs on goods in NEMA's product scope. Despite market barriers, in 2010 two-way trade in our sector totaled approximately $2.1 billion, with shipments from each side exceeding $1 billion. Indeed, our industry's exports to South Korea have risen each year since 2002, except for a recession-related dip in 2009, and rose almost 7 percent in 2010. As the world's innovators on energy efficiency, NEMA companies stand to gain a competitive boost if the agreement is ever allowed to take effect.
- President Obama's Advisory Council on Jobs and Competitiveness is scheduled to meet on October 11. Every day that we wait to approve and implement these agreements is a day when we are less competitive than we should and could be.
Can Congress pass the FTAs by Oct. 11/12? Not if they don't have them in time.