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Guest opinion: USMCA fuels America’s innovation economy

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP

President Donald Trump speaks during the USMCA signing ceremony as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Neto, left, look on, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In late June, Mexico ratified the new North American trade agreement. The deal, formally called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, is a much-needed modernization of NAFTA, which was signed more than 25 years ago.

USMCA will catalyze growth across the economy, especially in sectors that rely on strong intellectual property protections. America’s creators and innovators depend on lawmakers’ quick approval of USMCA as negotiated by its three signatory nations.

Innovation is the heart of the U.S. economy. We’re home to the most creative business community in the world, regularly generating groundbreaking intellectual property in every conceivable industry, from movies to smartphones, medicines to drones.

Today, America’s Intellectual Property is worth an astonishing $6.6 trillion and accounts for more than half of all U.S. merchandise exports. These vital industries — from tech, to manufacturing, and even agriculture — support more than 40 percent of U.S. economic growth.

IP-intensive companies also employ 45 million Americans — a full third of the labor force. Over the next ten years, job opportunities in IP-intensive industries are expected to grow faster than those in other sectors.

When NAFTA was drafted in the early 1990s, the internet was in its infancy. To most Americans, WiFi, smartphones, and high-speed internet weren’t even imaginable. So unsurprisingly, NAFTA is desperately out of date. USMCA modernizes NAFTA to account for several decades of break-neck innovation and establishes a clear, fair framework for American inventors.

For starters, it requires Mexico and Canada to extend their copyright protections to match America’s, up to the author’s life plus 70 years. This change is crucial to the health of the arts.

The recording industry adds nearly $10 billion a year to the economy. And our movie and television industries are the envy of the world, generating $134 billion in sales in 2016 and supporting more than two million jobs.

Inadequate copyright protections in Mexico and Canada deprive American artists of well-deserved earnings: Local companies are allowed to prematurely create knock-off products and steal sales. This abuse leads to lost revenues, lost jobs, and a hobbled economy here at home. Expanding copyright protections will stem this bleeding and keep our music, movie, and TV sectors humming.

USMCA also cracks down on piracy. The Chamber of Commerce estimates that piracy costs Hollywood $71 billion every year. USMCA beefs up border security, empowering agents to more effectively identify counterfeit and pirated goods. This will ensure that American innovators can reap the full benefits of their labor.

Next, USMCA smooths the channels of digital trade. It prohibits custom duties on digital products, including software, e-books, and games. These charges drive up overhead costs for creators, which ultimately raises product prices for consumers. By eliminating these unnecessary expenditures, digital entrepreneurs and consumers alike benefit from USMCA.

The deal also creates new protections for the code and algorithms behind new software. In effect, these safeguards make it harder for nefarious actors to steal lucrative Intellectual Property.

Put simply: USMCA ensures that American Intellectual Property-intensive companies can easily sell and operate in foreign markets.

Lastly, USMCA installs robust new Intellectual Property protections for advanced medicines derived from living cells. These treatments, called “biologics,” were in their infancy when NAFTA was signed. But today, they’re our most promising weapons against cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other punishing conditions. By raising “data protection” in Mexico and Canada closer to the American standard, USMCA helps ensure innovators have a chance to recoup their upfront research costs for new scientific discoveries and medical breakthroughs.


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USMCA erects a sturdy, forward-thinking Intellectual Property regime that will power decades of American prosperity. Mexico has already ratified it. And Canada has explicitly indicated it’s waiting for America to move next. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland recently said “Our plan is to move forward in tandem with the U.S.”

The next step is clear. Congress must ratify USMCA. This deal updates the NAFTA framework for the 21st century, protecting the innovation at the heart of the American economy.

Erik Paulsen represented Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2009 to 2019. He currently serves as honorary co-chairman of the Pass USMCA Coalition.



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Research refutes tech, mental health problems link

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Numerous articles have been published linking tech use among adolescents with increased rates of depression, suicide and other harms. In 2011, an article in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics coined the term Facebook Depression, designating “when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook

Larry Magid (Gary Reyes / Mercury News)

and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.” But a number of experts refuted that claim. At the time, I wrote “After examining the report’s related references, speaking with the report’s lead author and talking to the lead author of one of the research studies that the claim is based on, I’ve concluded that the diagnosis of Facebook depression is a nonexistent condition.”  Of course, people can become depressed when they encounter depressing content on Facebook, but that would be true in any venue.

Another highly cited article from the Atlantic, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation, by Jean Twenge, was also the subject of much scrutiny, including my own analysis from 2018, where I quoted a number of experts, including prominent youth researcher Vicky Rideout who wrote in a London School of Economics blog,  “Twenge is right to be concerned about the mental health of adolescents. Depression and suicide among young people have increased notably. … But the suggestion that getting teens to put down their phones would have a meaningful effect on this mental health challenge is overly simplistic; indeed, it could serve as a dangerous distraction from the hard work that needs to happen in adolescent mental health.”

Despite these alarming articles, there are researchers who spend their time reporting actual facts, based on studies of social media and youth behavior. Last week, an article appeared in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry which reviewed an impressive number of studies on the relationship between teens use of mobile phones and social media and negative consequences, with the authors finding that “the focus “on negative effects has been based on weak correlational data.”

The research review, Adolescent mental health in the digital age: facts, fears, and future directions, “synthesized data from three sources: (a) narrative reviews and meta‐analyses conducted between 2014 and 2019, large‐scale preregistered cohort studies and intensive longitudinal and ecological momentary assessment studies” and found that “technology usage and mental health, show that associations between time online and internalizing symptoms are often (a) mixed between positive, negative, and null findings, (b) when present, are likely too small to translate into practically or clinically meaningful effects.”

The authors acknowledged that there have been increases in suicide (especially among girls) as well as anxiety and depression among youth in certain countries. “When plotted alongside increases in social media usage across this same time period, a powerful narrative has emerged that social media is driving changes in depressive symptoms and suicidal behaviors.”  Yet, when they study the data, they found that “technology usage and mental health, show that associations between time online and internalizing symptoms are often (a) mixed between positive, negative, and null findings, (b) when present, are likely too small to translate into practically or clinically meaningful effects.”

Restricting tech use might be ‘ill-advised’

One of the most important observations of the study is that “Policies restricting adolescents’ access to new technologies … may be ill advised if new technologies are being used as a valuable source of social support or are required in order to build digital and interpersonal (digitally mediated) skills for economies of the future.”  The authors also argue that “many of the same principles that guide healthy development and inform effective parenting will apply when supporting youth in their online activities and experiences. If this is true, then the good news for parents and policymakers is that existing evidence‐based interventions and strategies may look different but will still be effective in supporting youth in the digital age.”

Takeaways

It would be foolhardy to ignore potential risks associated with connected technology social media, but equally foolhardy to conclude that the growth in technology use is the reason for increased rates of suicide or mental health problems.  As any social scientist will tell you, a correlation isn’t the same as causation. I’m no expert when it comes to suicide, but a paper by Kirsten Weir published by the American Psychological Association points out that “Pinpointing the reasons that suicide rates rise or fall is challenging in part because the causes of suicide are complex.” The author goes on to say that “Risk factors include health factors (such as depression, substance use problems, serious mental illness and serious physical health conditions including pain), environmental factors (such as access to lethal means and stressful life events including divorce, unemployment, relationship problems or financial crisis).” She said that half of suicide deaths in the U.S. are “the result of firearms. And there’s evidence that when access to guns goes down, so do suicide deaths.”

Weir points out that countries which have been able to reduce suicides, “have made suicide prevention a mission, through efforts such as improving access to mental health treatment, investing in community interventions, coordinating suicide prevention across health care, social, education and employment services.” She does not recommend that people stop using their phones.

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