Broadening Support for TRIPS
In order to get the think tanks on side Pfizer framed intellectual property as an issue of liberal values, individual property rights, fair reward for labour, pride in US achievements and national interest. Pfizer also donated funds to think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institute. It funded specific projects and conferences that produced reports that reinforced Pfizer’s version of the intellectual property story.
Once the Uruguay Round began, Pfizer and its allies had to persuade the US government negotiators that, not only was intellectual property a key element in free trade, but that it was so important to the US economy that no GATT deal should be agreed to that did not include intellectual property protections. Pratt, from Pfizer and Opel, from IBM, formed the Intellectual Property Committee (IPC) in 1983 to aid in this effort. Its membership of 12 large US transnational corporations included General Electric, DuPont, General Motors, Johnson and Johnson and Monsanto and the CEOs of these companies had direct access to both the US president and the USTR because of the size of their companies.
Pratt later claimed: ‘The committee helped convince U.S. officials that we should take a tough stance on intellectual property issues and that led to trade-related intellectual property rights being included on the GATT agenda when negotiations began in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 1986.’
At the start of the Uruguay Round, only the US was pushing for TRIPS. The US Trade Representative told US business leaders: ‘I’m convinced on intellectual property and trade, but when I go to Quad meetings, they are under no pressure from their industry. Can you get it?’ Pfizer and the newly formed Intellectual Property Committee therefore went to work at the international level to persuade corporations in Europe and Japan that it was in their interests to get intellectual property rules into the GATT agreement.
IPC set up a tripartite coalition with the European Employers Association (UNICE) and the Japanese federation of economic organizations (Keidanren), which has more than 1000 corporate members in Japan, including Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Sony. Each member organization persuaded their own governments of the need for intellectual property protection to be included in GATT. The coalition produced a hundred page blueprint for negotiators entitled Basic Framework of GATT Provisions on Intellectual Property: Statement of Views of the European, Japanese and United States Business Communities. Such a consensus report from powerful businesses in the three most powerful sectors of the world was clearly influential and difficult to ignore. IPC also put direct pressure on the EC and Japanese government, threatening to oppose US Congressional ratification of GATT if a strong TRIP agreement was not included.