Submissions to USTR for the 2008 Special 301 Report Posted Online
March 31, 2008
USTR’s annual Special 301 Report identifies countries viewed as denying sufficient intellectual property protection to US companies. If a country is listed as a “priority foreign country” in the report, USTR may initiate a formal investigation of the country within 30 days – the first step in the process of imposing bilateral trade sanctions against a country. Countries may also be included in the report’s “priority watch list” or “watch list,” indicating USTR’s concern with their IP policies and/or enforcement. Significantly, a country in compliance with the TRIPS Agreement may still be singled out for bilateral sanctions through the 301 process.
Each year, USTR requests input from the public on what countries should be included in the report. Most of the submissions it receives come from industry groups and individual companies, and the resulting report (published at the end of April each year) reflects their input. The most detailed submissions each year come from the International Intellectual Property Alliance and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Some come from the governments of foreign governments from countries included in the report in previous years. There is very little civil society participation in the process – last there was one nonprofit that submitted comments (Knowledge Ecology International), and this year there were none.
In past years, the submissions have been available to the public, but only in hard-copy format at the FOIA reading room in Washington DC, or through a Freedom of Information Act Request. This year, however, the US Trade Representative has posted the comments it received online for the first time.