Monday, May 18, 2009

Grim audits of EU-China Relations – IPR to the rescue?

Guest article by Mikołaj Rogowski

Dragons Nightmare, an article from the last month’s edition of The Economist drew a rather pessimistic picture of the European Union – China relations landscape.  According to The Economist the EU is a tough spot. The Economist argues that currently the conflicting policies of the member states are far from rising to the task of coping with the challenges of the emerging of China.

“If you wanted to design a competitor to show up European weaknesses most painfully, you would come up with something a lot like China. It is a centralized, unitary state, which is patient and relentless in the pursuit of national goals that often matter more to the Chinese than anyone else. European governments do not even agree on what they want from China”.

That picture is grim. On the far reaches of the horizon the author sees a possibility of a world where “Chi-American” G-2 is in charge and the European states are no longer treated as meaningful world powers. 

This gloomy vision might just be one of many possible outcomes of the current geopolitical struggle, however the newly published Policy Report by the European Council on Foreign Relations confirms most if not all defects of the current European position outlined by The Economist. 

The report written by John Fox, ECFR Senior Policy Fellow; and François Godement, ECFR Senior Policy Fellow, Professor and Director of the Asia Centre at Sciences Po, proposes what its authors call a “reciprocal engagement” a new policy based on 4 R’s: reduction and reciprocity, relevance and realism: 

“… interest-based approach with two principles and two criteria. The principles: European offers to China should be focused on a reduced number of policy areas, and the EU should use incentives and leverage to ensure that China will reciprocate. The criteria: relevance to the EU, and a realistic expectation that a collective European effort will shift Chinese policy.”(pg. 13) 

Unsurprisingly many of the actions proposed by the report are focused on IPR. The paper perceives the strengthening of the IP protection in China as one of the key factors that could shape the new rebalanced economic relationship between China and EU. One that stands out the most among the anticipated actions is the proposition of establishing “an IPR and patent support fund, supervised by the EU delegation or Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, to which European SMEs could apply for financial support and legal advice to assist with IPR registration/protection in China. “(pg. 56) I am sure that many European companies that are currently considering entering Chinese market would welcome such a move. 

The report’s appendix also proves to be a source of interesting information. It summarizes the approach of every EU member state towards China, highlighting certain areas, including IPR (You can find out i.e. that Poland, as far as the foreign policy goes, is blissfully unconcerned about IPR in China). 

All too all ECFR’s paper is a read worth recommending. It gives the reader a coherent view of the current Eu-China relations and suggests several appealing solutions. It would be interesting to hear what others have to say on the topic of the current EU policy, its proposed changes and how they could affects IPR and IP focused business in China.

Text  Mikołaj Rogowski

This is the second guest contribution of Mikolaj Rogowski, law student at Jagiellonian University, author of several IP articles and Polish-English translations, specializes in Polish, European, Chinese and American IP law, China assistant to MEP Jan Olbrycht. His first guest contribution can be found here.

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