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  September 19th, 2017 | Written by

USTR Initiates Special Review for Thailand

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  • In a 2017 report, USTR placed Thailand on a priority watch over IP issues.
  • US prepared to review watch-list status if Thailand took positive action on IP.
  • USTR uses out-of-cycle reviews to encourage progress on IP issues.

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has announced an out-of-cycle review (OCR) of Thailand’s Special 301 status due to positive steps the country has taken regarding intellectual property (IP).

In the 2017 Special 301 report, USTR placed Thailand on the priority watch list but noted that the United States was prepared to review that status if Thailand continued to take positive action on IP issues and made substantial progress in addressing the concerns described in the Special 301 report.

USTR uses OCRs to encourage progress on IP issues. Successful resolution of specific IP issues of concern can lead to a change in a trading partner’s Special 301 status outside of the typical period for the annual Special 301 Report. USTR may conduct OCRs of other trading partners as circumstances warrant.

The Trump administration has been closely engaging with Thailand on improving IP protection and enforcement. In recent months, Thailand has taken steps to improve enforcement against pirated and counterfeit goods, including enhanced coordination among enforcement agencies and a sustained focus on investigations and raids.

In addition, in August 2017, Thailand acceded to the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, making it easier for US companies to file for trademark protection. Thailand also has been addressing the backlog for patent and trademark applications, including by hiring a significant number of additional examiners.

The United States is continuing to engage with Thailand on other important issues, such as on reforms to its legal system and on improving transparency and due process with respect to pharmaceutical issues.

In light of Thailand’s progress, the United States chose to conduct an OCR. As part of this process, USTR will publish a Federal Register Notice seeking comments on Thailand’s IP record.

The Special 301 OCR announcement came as Lighthizer welcomed Thailand’s Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn to Washington, DC for a meeting to discuss ways to increase trade and reduce the trade deficit between the United States and Thailand. During the meeting, Lighthizer stressed the need to address longstanding trade barriers, including on US meat and other agriculture exports. He also highlighted the need for progress on customs, goods, worker rights, and other issues discussed during the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement meeting in July.

The United States and Thailand have strong and longstanding trade ties. Thailand is the United States’ 21st-largest goods trading partner, with two-way goods trade totaling $40 billion in 2016. The United States’ trade deficit with Thailand totals $18.9 billion, the 11th largest.