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Public Statements

Letter to Ron Kirk, United States Trade Representative for the Office of the United States Trade Representative

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Today, seven U.S. Senate Finance Committee members urged U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to preserve the highest standards of protection for trade secrets in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trade Agreement. In a letter spearheaded by Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Committee member John Kerry (D-Mass.), the lawmakers said protecting trade secrets, or the "know-how" of companies, within the agreement would preserve the competitive advantage of American employers in the rapidly expanding Asia-Pacific markets.

"Foreign governments have become adept at developing policies which effectively undermine the value of trade secret protection in order to advance national policy goals -- often at the expense of U.S. industry," wrote the Senators.

"We encourage you to ensure that the TPP includes the strongest possible provisions aimed at protecting trade secrets. Towards that end, we are prepared to work closely with you to craft provisions which will help maintain U.S. competitiveness," they concluded.

Also, joining Hatch and Kerry on the letter were Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Ron Wyden (D-Wis.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over international trade.

Below is the full text of the letter:

Ambassador Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative
Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW Washington, DC 20508
Dear Ambassador Kirk,

We understand that the most recent round of negotiations towards the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement took place this month. If the TPP is going to be the standard bearer for future trade agreements, it must include provisions designed to protect the assets which underpin the 21st Century knowledge economy. In particular, the TPP agreement must ensure that trade secrets are afforded strong protection, so that America's innovators can maintain their competitive advantage in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific markets covered by the TPP.

Trade secrets, or "know-how," are among the most valuable assets for many companies across a wide variety of sectors. They are often particularly useful to start-ups and SMEs since, unlike patents, they can be protected without registration or other formalities. Unfortunately, while trade secrets are vitally important, they are also fragile commodities -- once disclosed, they cannot be restored and they become devoid of value to their owner.

Many jurisdictions have recognized the need to protect against the misappropriation of trade secrets by private actors. Unfortunately, while necessary, such protection is not sufficient. Foreign governments have become adept at developing policies which effectively undermine the value of trade secret protection in order to advance national policy goals -- often at the expense of U.S. industry. Governments (particularly those in important emerging markets) have increasingly conditioned investments on the disclosure of trade secrets, enacted testing or certification regimes which require companies to disclose confidential information to participate in domestic markets, and led efforts to use compulsory licensing mechanisms to force the disclosure of critical trade secrets which would provide their domestic champions an unfair competitive advantage.

We encourage you to ensure that the TPP includes the strongest possible provisions aimed at protecting trade secrets. Towards that end, we are prepared to work closely with you to craft provisions which will help maintain U.S. competitiveness.

Sincerely,


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