Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's the question of national interest again...

Krugman recently wrote about the TPP being no big deal in the NYT. An interesting aspect of that piece was relating to what constitutes "national interest" that I allude to in this blog. Talking about intellectual property rights rules in the trade agreement, it said:

"Now, the corporations benefiting from enhanced control over intellectual property would often be American. But this doesn’t mean that the T.P.P. is in our national interest. What’s good for Big Pharma is by no means always good for America."
What is "national interest" then? What is good for business can sometimes be not good for the country of the business corporation. National interest could well be larger public interest? Consumer interest? Or just plain "public interest"?

Countering Krugman's analysis generally and also specifically on the "national interest" plank, a VoxEU piece argues:
"After dismissing the case for stronger intellectual property protection in the TPP, Krugman writes with a flourish, “What’s good for Big Pharma is by no means always good for America.” Not even the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association would claim that its interests always coincide with US interests. 
But what about the general coincidence of interests? America’s competitive strength resides in innovation. Innovation costs lots of money; not surprisingly, some 60% of the value of US shares – or about $14 trillion in 2013 – represents the capital value of ideas, not tangible property.1 With this amount at stake, protection of intellectual property is clearly in the US national interest. From a global perspective, it’s worth asking how future innovation will be financed if good ideas – embodied in software, entertainment, electronics, and yes, pharmaceuticals – can be freely appropriated by rival firms based in foreign countries?"
An interesting debate on what constitutes "national interest" - what constitutes it, who are it's recipients and how should it be protected? I guess all trade deals will face this question. The issue is how the interests are balanced, who balances them and whose interests ultimately prevail. 

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