September 13 2013

We Need Worldwide Agreement on Key Economic Matters Too

Carrie L. Lukas

Rather than the usual back-and-forth on Congress or flash-in-the-pan cultural occurance, Americans' attention this week have been focused on a question of real international consequence, though there has been a disturbingly reality-tv vibe to the entire episode.  The cliff hanger has been:  Will the President lob a few missiles in protest of Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons or will we instead agree that it’s enough for Assad to say he will turn over his WMDs to the Russians? 

It’s been a bit of a farce; and, at this point, it may be the best option left that the U.S. pretends to believe that Syria will really turn over its chemical weapon stash to the Russians, no matter how far-fetched it seems.

This has been a humbling exercise for America.  Even those of us who aren’t cheerleaders for the President find it disconcerting to see a Russian President lecture Americans about our silly notions of exceptionalism and deliver the rhetorical equivalent of a poke in the eye to our President.

Putin’s oped, however, makes the case for the importance on international organizations in world affairs.  Indeed, the world does have a shared interest in limiting the fallout from civil wars and discouraging the spread of WMDs. 

Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works and it seems as though some countries—such as Mr. Putin’s Russia—are as interested in causing problems as they are in solving them. Russia has been a key ally of Assad, and is often a supporter of the regions worst actors, helping arm those who are sworn enemies of the West.  Mr. Putin's opining about our shared interest in preventing the spread of terrorism seems a stretch given this record.

And of course, our need for international collaboration and international norms isn’t limited to diplomacy.  We also need to be able to depend on other countries as economic partners, and one would hope that we could all agree on some key ground rules.  One of those should be that we respect property rights, including patent and copyright agreements.  The ability of people to steal intellectual property, whether across borders or at home, provides a major disincentive for those who would invest in developing new technologies, medical treatments, and other patents. 

Sadly, Russia doesn’t seem to see this as a priority.  In fact, Russia consistently tops the list of worst countries in terms of protecting intellectual property rights and preventing copyright theft, according to the U.S Trade Representative.  Mr. Putin Is right that we need collaboration to make our global world work, but that isn’t just for responding to war crimes but also to ensure that we have rules in place so that economic progress continues. 

Let’s hope Russia gets on board in supporting what should be another international norm, and not allow its country to continue to be exceptional in its propensity for intellectual piracy.

   

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