Monday, December 04, 2006

Troubled CAFTA in Costa Rica

The Central American Free Trade Agreement is the multilateral treaty signed between the United States, the Domenican Republic and several countries in Central America. As it happens with most free trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration, there is a requirement to impose heavy protection of intellectual property rights in the signatory countries. In most instances, the protection seems particularly unnecessary for developing countries. Why are strong anti-circumvention provisions required in the text? Why the emphasis on implementing criminalisation of IPR infringement?

Anyway, the road to CAFTA has been extremely difficult in Costa Rica. Firstly, the agreement hung in the balance last February at the local elections when anti-CAFTA candidate Ottón Solís almost defeated pro-agreement candidate and now president Dr. Oscar Arias Sánchez. The agreement has also been the subject of heated popular demonstrations from university strudents and intellectuals.

CAFTA (or TLC in Spanish) is now in process of being voted in not in a bulk legislative package, but it has been broken up. IP provisions are now being considered by the plenary, including reforms to the existing IP law, and a new trade mark legislation. It seems to me that the Costa Rican government is trying to sneak some of the least controversial issues such as IP protection before sending the treaty to vote. Let's face it, IP issues do not send people to the streets (unless they are protesting software patents).

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