Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is meant to be one definition of insanity. It’s also a pretty good definition of poor policymaking. Another sign of really ordinary policymaking is doing the same thing over and over without ever assessing whether it actually works as promised. Sorry to say, I’ve just described Australia’s approach to negotiating the intellectual property chapters in free-trade agreements. These chapters set rules relating to copyright, patent, trade mark, including how copyright gets enforced online and for how long, and how we balance incentives for pharmaceutical development with questions of access to medicine.
The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) turned 10 this year. A perfect opportunity, you would think, to assess the successes and failures of past agreements, like AUSFTA. Did we get it right? Could we do better? Before we do the same again, have any problems emerged of which we should be careful?