The role of an economic think tank is to engage in research that facilitates a dialog about trade and investment. The Seattle-based National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) is one such institution. It performs forward-leaning, unbiased research on many issues that help define the U.S. relationship with Asian economies. One of its internal groups, the Trade, Economic and Energy Affairs (TEEA) group, is responsible for two major research thrusts:
- Energy and the environment
- Trade, investment and economic engagement.
On this second topic, Asia has been the site of a huge growth in economic activity and thus creates many opportunities for trade with U.S. companies. The TEEA looks at the impacts of various policies â regulatory, investment, trade, etc. â and gauges their effects on the business environment for companies that operate in both the U.S. and Asia.
Financial services have long been an area of development between the U.S. and its Asian trade partners. Every major U.S. prime brokerage has at least one Asian bureau. Hedge fund investing in Asian markets has been steadily increasing for decades, and U.S. hedge funds are very prominent in Japan and Hong Kong, as well as most of the other Asian members of APEC.
During the last year, the TEEA has released several important studies, including one on Chinese intellectual property rights. The strategies employed by China to manage intellectual property (IP) rights are replete with complex and contentious issues. China deserves study in this area because of its huge international economic footprint. Once regarded as an outlaw landscape in which international copyright laws were actively ignored, China has made progress in recognizing the need for some sort of IP rights framework. This change has been driven by China’s desire to promote innovation from within the country. The Chinese government commenced a program in 2008 to support the creation and management of IP. It now looks like China may be ready to transform its intellectual property regimes so that it more closely resembles international standards, but this transformation is not assured. These are the policy implications of the Chinese shift:
- Better intelligence regarding Chinese intentions regarding the development of IP strategies is a must. Cultural differences must be kept in mind, and some credit should be given China for its movement towards cooperation.
- Chinese leadership has been willing to endorse a crackdown on piracy. Western leaders should continue to press China on this issue.
- The West should expand its engagement with China over IP and innovation. This means additional staff and additional analytic efforts.
- Foreign countries in China may have to adapt their own approaches to protecting IP to take into account the changing Chinese landscape. This may mean more willingness by foreign companies to press their cases in the Chinese legal system.