Amid the global Covid-19 vaccination campaign, a debate has emerged around intellectual property (IP) and stark inequalities in vaccine distribution. Wealthier nations have opposed a petition to waive the 1995 Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, which imposes a 20-year monopoly for pharmaceuticals among other global IP standards.

In her 2008 book, CAROLYN DEERE turns to the domestic implementation of the TRIPS agreement across developing countries, finding large variations in new IP governance structures and enforcement.

From the introduction:

“Amidst growing debates on globalization and inequality, TRIPS became a symbol of the vulnerability of developing countries to coercive pressures from the most powerful developed countries and galvanized critics of the influence of multinational corporations on global economic rules. While IP advocates insisted that stronger IP protection could serve as a ‘power tool for development’, a host of prominent international economists, such as Jagdish Bhagwati and Joseph Stiglitz, questioned the place of TRIPS in the WTO system (and continue to do so). Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang, among others, emphasized the costs to developing countries of introducing ‘irrelevant or unsuitable laws’ that restrict access to technologies and knowledge. Developing countries argued that TRIPS ignores the diversity of national needs and forces them to sacrifice the ‘policy space’ that richer countries harnessed in early stages of their growth.

Given the vocal concern expressed by developing countries during the TRIPS negotiations and after it came into force, one would reasonably expect them to have taken full advantage of the possibilities the Agreement provides to tailor implementation to respond to national economic and social priorities. Careful examination of the empirical evidence from 1995 to 2007, however, reveals a more complex picture of how developing countries responded to this room for maneuver. There was striking diversity in the approach developing countries took to the implementation of TRIPS rights and obligations. Most notably, developing countries took varying advantage of the legal safeguards, options, and ambiguities in TRIPS, now commonly referred to as the TRIPS ‘flexibilities’. Further, a surprising number of developing country WTO members implemented even higher IP standards than those required by TRIPS. By contrast, some developing countries took advantage of a range of TRIPS flexibilities, but their approaches varied according to the type of IP (e.g. copyright or industrial property). Further, many developing countries missed their deadlines for bringing their laws into conformity with TRIPS, thus effectively claiming more flexibility than provided for in the Agreement. Across the developing world, governments struggled to upgrade institutional capacity and resources to effectively administer and enforce their IP laws.”

Link to the text.

  • “A human rights frame for intellectual property does not, ineluctably, facilitate socially desirable outcomes for all countries; slapping human rights ideals on intellectual property regimes can, instead, actually strengthen intellectual property rights in non-socially helpful ways.” In chapter of Framing Intellectual Property Law in the 21st Century, Ruth L. Okedji demonstrates flaws in human rights-based critiques of IP. Link.
  • “The growing new bi- and pluri-lateralism of regional free trade agreements with their asymmetric intellectual property rules, the re-distribution of economic power among the developed and the emerging or rather the emerged countries, and the nature of strategic competition between globally acting multinational corporations have changed the rules of the game.” Hanns Ullrich revisits TRIPs amid changing conditions in global markets. Link.
  • In her 2003 book, Susan Sell looks at the role of twelve multinational corporations in the TRIPS negotiations. Link. And Hyo Yoon Kang blogs about TRIPS in the current vaccine debate. Link.


Inventories in Global Value Chains

Assistant Professor and the University of Zurich Alessandro FERRARI’s job market paper looks at the role of inventories in the amplification of supply chain shocks.

From the paper:

“In this paper I combine these elements and study how shocks to final demand propagate upstream in the presence of inventories in an input-output economy. I show both theoretically and empirically that, indeed, when inventory adjustments are accounted for, final demand shocks are amplified upstream in value chains. These findings carry important implications for understanding the impact of such shocks in the economy. Models in which they diffuse and dissipate will, in particular, systematically understate their overall impact. A deeper understanding of this phenomenon is vitally important for policymakers when designing GVC participation policies, which remain a central topic in policy discussions.”

Link to the chapter, link to Ferrari’s website.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations: editorial@jainfamilyinstitute.org.

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  • On April 23, join Phenomenal World and the Law, Letters, and Society Program of UChicago for a roundtable discussion featuring Destin Jenkins, Melinda Cooper, Sarah Quinn, Peter James Hudson, Yakov Feygin, David Stein, and Jonathan Levy, on Jenkin’s new book, The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City. Register here.
  • We are hiring for a paid summer internship position, open to all CUNY students, to work on JFI’s editorial team and the Phenomenal World. Link to the job description and application details.
  • JFI is also hiring a research fellow with a background in statistics, social scientific methods, and policy design to work on our guaranteed income initiative. Link to the job description and application details.
  • “One common backlash you get talking about tech unionizing is that ‘workers in tech are well paid relative to other industries.’ Usually people say that with a Google software engineer in mind, not an Amazon warehouse worker.” An interview featuring Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya, JFI Fellow and Collective Actions in Tech organizer, in MIT Tech Review. Link.
  • Erling Barth, Alex Bryson, and Harald Dale-Olsen examine union density effects on productivity and wages. Link.
  • “This paper focuses on the British state’s attitude towards co-operatives, focusing mainly on the Thatcher (1979–1990) and Cameron (2010–2015) governments.” Thomas Da Costa Vieira and Emma Foster on “ordoliberalism.” Link.
  • Juan Santarcángelo and Juan Manuel Padin on the return to international financial debt during the Macri administration (2015-2019) in Argentina. Link.
  • “As a surplus of unmarketable primary commodities piled up in British colonies, as well as in Latin America and French, Dutch, and Belgian colonies, this jeapordized the blockade and threatened political unrest across the British Empire, as well as the spread of Nazi influence in Latin America.” Jamie Martin on the commodity glut during World War II. Link.
  • Matthew Shutzer on the politics of fossil fuel extraction in India from 1870 to 1975. Link.
  • Erik Lin Greenberg examines the influence of public opinion polling on likeliness that US military officers advise the use of force abroad. Link.
  • Matteo Rizzi and Maurizio Ateni compare organizing attempts by precarious transport workers in Buenos Aires and Dar es Salaam. Link.
  • “We test whether liberty bonds led to changes in voting outcomes in presidential elections in the 1920s relative to those in the previous decade, in a panel of about 1,400 counties. The 1920s were a period of Republican dominance in presidential politics, with Harding, Coolidge and Hoover winning substantial majorities of the popular and electoral votes in 1920, 1924 and 1928. Previous scholarship has attributed these victories to the breakdown of the coalition that had supported Wilson. We posit instead that voters responded to changes in liberty bond prices by voting against the incumbent Democrats when they depreciated in value, and later voting for the incumbent Republicans following their appreciation. The results of our empirical analysis indicate that counties with higher liberty bond participation rates did indeed turn against the Democrats, relative to their voting patterns in earlier elections.” By Eric Hilt and Wendy M. Rahn. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations: editorial@jainfamilyinstitute.org

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