US trade report puts Philippines on ‘lower level watch list’

May. 02, 2007

MANILA — The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released the Special 301 Report, placing the Philippines and 29 other trading partners on the lower level watch list. After staying on the priority watch list of the report for five successive years since 2001, the Philippines was relegated to the ordinary watch list in 2006.

The reports recommendations affirm the Philippine governments consistent campaign against piracy and counterfeiting. This is a result of the collaborative effort among member agencies of the National Committee for Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR), which has seized close to P4 billion worth of counterfeit goods to-date from its creation in 2005, Atty. Adrian S. Cristobal Jr., Director General of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines

(IP Philippines), said.

Throughout 2006, the Philippines continued to implement its Optical Media Act, including regulating the licensing of optical disc plants and coordinating raids against pirate optical disc production factories and retail establishments. The Philippines Intellectual Property Office continued to coordinate among IPR enforcement agencies, the 2007 Special 301 Report stated.

While recognizing these continued IPR enforcement actions, the United States urges the Philippines to continue strengthening its enforcement regime against piracy and counterfeiting, the report added.

The Optical Media Board (OMB), a member agency of the NCIPR, has confiscated more than P1 billion worth of counterfeit items.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her latest meeting with the NCIPR said, Fighting piracy is fighting poverty because it enables Filipino excellence and enterprise to rise in the global arena, expanding opportunities and jobs along the way. Upholding IPR promotes diffusion of knowledge, develops local talent and creativity, and encourages more foreign investors to endow their strong qualities in the Philippine market.

IP Philippines leads the coordination of NCIPR member organizations namely, the OMB, the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Bureau of Customs (BoC), the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the Department of Justice (DoJ), and the National Book Development Board (NBDB). It also organized private sector partners such as the Public-Private Partnership Council for Intellectual Property Rights (P3CIPR) to promote respect for IPR and curb violations against these rights.

Removal of the Philippines from the watch list is still our end goal. This, however, will be a secondary effect of our long-term plan to improve the investment climate of the country through a more stringent IPR enforcement, Cristobal said.

IPR enforcement is more than the raids that the agencies conduct, it is protecting the works of Filipino artists, the trademarks of Filipino entrepreneurs, and the creations of Filipino inventors that create wealth, promote competitiveness and preserve our cultural heritage, he added.

The Special 301 Report focuses on the adequacy and effectiveness of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection by US trading partners. Under the Special 301 provisions, the USTR created a priority watch list and watch list for particular concerns that exist in a country in relation to IPR protection, enforcement, or market access for persons relying on intellectual property.

Other countries on the lower level watch list are as follows: Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Korea, Kuwait, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Twelve countries, on the other hand, were included in the priority watch list. The list includes China, Russia, Argentina, Chile, Egypt, India, Israel, Lebanon, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela.

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