Mercosur Trade Pact

MERCOSUR, the customs union that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, remains the cornerstone of Argentina's international trade policy. Close cooperation between Brazil and Argentina--historic competitors--is the key to the integration process of MERCOSUR, which includes political and military elements in addition to a customs union. Chile and Bolivia have become associate members. MERCOSUR members are active participants in the negotiation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). MERCOSUR also continues to pursue an active program of trade negotiations with other countries and regional groups including Mexico and the European Union.

Argentina adheres to most treaties and international agreements on intellectual property. It is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Argentine Congress ratified the Uruguay Round agreements, including the provisions on intellectual property, as Law 24425 on January 5, 1995. However, extension of adequate patent protection to pharmaceuticals has been a highly contentious bilateral issue. In May 1997, the U.S. suspended 50% of Argentina's generalized system of preferences (GSP) benefits because of its unsatisfactory pharmaceutical patent law. In November 2000, after years of protracted debate, a new patent law took effect, and a number of pharmaceutical patents were issued. This law improved earlier Argentine patent legislation but provides less protection than that called for in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

In April 2002, negotiations between the Governments of the United States and Argentina clarified aspects of the latter's intellectual property system, such as provisions related to the patentability of microorganisms and the import restriction regime. In addition, the Government of Argentina agreed to amend its patent law so as to provide protection for products obtained from a process patent and to ensure that preliminary injunctions are available in intellectual property court proceedings, among other steps. Finally, on the outstanding issues that remain, including data protection, the U.S. Government retains its right to seek resolution under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. In return, the U.S. Government is committed to considering all Argentine requests to expand market access for Argentine products as soon as U.S. legislation reauthorizing trade preferences under the GSP is enacted.