Going on the offensive


Source: State of São Paulo, 12/03/2005

Emerson Kapaz *

The government now has very strong arguments to neutralize the threat, by the United States, of excluding Brazilian exports from the so-called General System of Preferences. Contrary to what happened in the past, the protection of intellectual property and the fight against piracy practices started to receive priority attention, and there is already a plan in this sense with 92 actions designed to be carried out immediately.
This initiative is not the only novelty. Result of a recent meeting of the National Council to Combat Piracy and Crimes Against Intellectual Property, created at the end of last year, the plan was born out of an unprecedented alliance between civil society and the government, which broadens and improves the channels of dialogue and the exchange of information. On the part of society, there are six participants, including representatives of the industry, in addition to two members of the National Congress. The government, in turn, participates with seven ministries, in addition to the Federal Police, the Highway Police and the Federal Revenue Service.

At the same time, the council has an autonomous executive secretariat, not linked to the ministries, with its own budget for organizing a database that will operate in conjunction with the Single Public Security System. That is to say, it is free to pressure the government and demand action. In a recent editorial, the State listed some of the priority axes of the council's plan, among them, the reduction of the price difference between the original products and the counterfeit products, the campaigns to clarify public opinion, the increase in inspection staff, the modernization of legislation and reduction of bureaucracy, which inhibits the punishment of criminals. He concludes by stating that, in doing so, “the government will not simply be yielding to the demands of the United States and other industrialized countries. It will be serving one of the most genuine national interests ”.

The numbers leave no doubt: if added to smuggling and routing practices, counterfeiting products - read piracy - causes losses of R $ 18 billion to the country, with a reduction in collection of R $ 3 billion and the elimination of something around 2 million formal jobs. In this type of environment, negative chain reactions are multiple and increasingly harmful. Among them are the increasing losses to shareholders, the flight of investors, the loss of competitiveness of companies, which support costly research and development projects, and, as if that were not enough, international pressures are intensifying.

This is the case, for example, within the United States. On March 31, there will be an evaluation to radiograph the Brazilian position. If it is concluded that the inspection is ineffective, the country can be removed from the General System of Preferences, which establishes zero tariffs for a series of exported products. All told, the loss would be $ 2,5 billion a year. But the real damage of such a measure transcends the language of numbers. They involve the very character of the reputation and the Brazilian image abroad, with repercussions of the most damaging in the internal environment.

That is why the board's actions are here to stay. The illusions have long since collapsed that turning a blind eye to illegal competition practices, whatever they may be, was a necessary evil. A way to mitigate the serious social disparities in Brazil. The country woke up to the risks of informality and, thus, started to see ethics in competition with its true face: an indispensable factor for development and integration in the international economic community.

It was in this context that the National Council for Combating Piracy and Offenses Against Intellectual Property was born. The first reflection of its functioning is that it went from a defensive attitude, generally timid, to an offensive action, determined on all fronts. It remains to inform the United States, and other countries that feel threatened, that reality is changing for the better. Without such an initiative, there is a risk that Brazilian exports will be victims of an error that is part of the popular anecdote: that of throwing the baby out with the dirty water. We need to strengthen the baby, which is the council's action plan, while dirty water, those who practice illegal competition, are banned from the scene and their guardians, exiled behind bars. Impunity times have started to change.

* Emerson Kapaz is president of the Brazilian Institute of Ethics in Competition (ETCO). Email: www.etc.org.br