Friday, 26 November 2004

How to Kill a Country

The Technology News of The Age today published an email interview of the authors of a book which details the specifics of the US-Australia free trade agreement. I am no expert in Intellectual Property Laws nor economics. I am just very concerned about the long term benefit of this wonderful country called Australia. I am copying some paragraphs* from the interview below.

The book deals with the subject at hand simply - the average person can read it and understand the implications of the trade deal from the Australian perspective.

We use the parallel experience of Canada to buttress some of these points. Canada is now being described by leading author, Mel Hurtig, as a "Vanishing country" ... In Mel Hurtig's illuminating book The Vanishing Country, he shows how Canada abolished its Foreign Investment Review Agency (the equivalent of our Foreign Investment Review Board) following its FTA with the USA in 1989,

... our book on four areas of institutional dismantling - quarantine, the PBS, government procurement and intellectual property rights. All are important for Australia's future and all are threatened by the FTA. The most subtle of the changes introduced by the FTA are certainly those to do with intellectual property rights (IPRs) ... the Australian negotiators overlooked the point that Australia is a net importer of IPRs (i.e. we pay out more than $1 billion in royalties over and above what we collect) and that this imbalance will only get worse as a result of the FTA.

There are some promotions of "Buy Australian Own" instead of "Buy Australian Made" concept here by a local hero Dick Smith. His commercial interest aside, this is not without merit. As the case of Canada shows (from my limited understanding my reading only the Age's article), when foreign investment controls the major corporations of a country, these corporations will not necessarily put the country where the operation are happening into any major consideration. It cannot be good for the country!

As pointed out by Andrew A. Adams, see my comment here, increase enforcement of copyright laws (and IP protection) does not contribute to more innovation, does not benefit the original creator of the IP (because the reward of such extension will only benefit the "middle man")and in fact will hinder new innovation (by suffocating more liberal use of ideas in order to create new ideas).

This quote again:

"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." - Issac Newton

*Note: Less than 10% from the original article. This lies within the "fair use" exception of our Australian copyright law which governs my activity. - Sorry, as I am writing this post here in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, I am out of the juridistion of American and the FTA is not yet effective. All text from the original article is in [blockquote] style in this post and this serves as the attribution of the source of the text. ;-P

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