USMCA: Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)



Shayerah Ilias Akhtar and Ian F. Fergusson | Congressional Research Service

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) negotiated among the three parties to update and replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). On November 30, 2018, President Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Canada signed USMCA. Congress would need to pass the legislation to implement the agreement before it can enter into force.

USMCA would make notable changes to NAFTA provisions on intellectual property (IP)—creations of the mind embodied in physical and digital objects. IPR are time-limited rights that governments grant to inventors and artists to exclude others from using their inventions and creations without permission. IP is a key source of U.S. comparative advantage; advancing IPR protection globally has been a U.S. trade negotiating objective since 1988 (P.L. 100-418). IPR trade agreement provisions were first included in NAFTA and, subsequently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The 2015 Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, P.L. 114-26) retains prior U.S. trade negotiating objectives for U.S. trade agreements to “reflect a standard of protection similar to that found in U.S. law” (“TRIPS-plus”), and adds new objectives to combat cyber theft and protect trade secrets.

IP-intensive goods and services are an important part of U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico. The United States has expressed concern over certain IPR policies in both countries in recent years.

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