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US Blocking Costa Rican Sugar Trade To Force IP Laws 441

For the last couple of days news has been trickling in about how the US is trying to ram IP laws down Costa Rica's throat by blocking their access to the US sugar market. Techdirt has a good summary of the various commentaries and a related scoop in the Bahamas where the US is also applying IP pressure. "The first is in Costa Rica, which is included in the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Yet like with other free trade agreements that the US has agreed to elsewhere, this one includes draconian intellectual property law requirements. I still cannot understand why intellectual monopoly protectionism — the exact opposite of 'free trade' — gets included in free trade agreements. At least in Costa Rica, a lot of people started protesting these rules, pointing out that it would be harmful for the economy, for education and for healthcare. So the Costa Rican government has not moved forward with such laws. How has the US responded? It's blocking access to the US market of Costa Rican sugar until Costa Rica approves new copyright laws."
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US Blocking Costa Rican Sugar Trade To Force IP Laws

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  • by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:53PM (#30810852) Homepage Journal
    US pushes around Central American country and gets away with it because we are their biggest market. Gee, that's only been the story of, what, the past 150 years?
  • by forand ( 530402 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @02:58PM (#30810912) Homepage
    While I believe I agree with you in general sentiment, that is that US IP laws are so long term and non permissive as to be more a hinderance to development than an incentive; the statement in the summary, quoted below makes no sense.

    I still cannot understand why intellectual monopoly protectionism — the exact opposite of "free trade" — gets included in free trade agreements.

    Intellectual property laws being uniform across a free trade so is REQUIRED for free trade of intellectual property and clearly not 'the exact opposite of free trade.' If laws differed between member nations then one nation would be able to use intellectual property to manufacture their goods which was prohibited by other members thus creating an unfair advantage. This would be most dramatic if the intellectual property was produced in one nation under its laws then used without license by another nation to effectively eliminate the benefits of the intellectual property protects. These protections are for the creators not for the nations (thus not protectionist in the traditional sense). Free trade is to stop nations from creating safe havens for their producers by erecting unfair barriers to trade not to allow anyone to take whatever IP they want and use it as they see fit.

  • by xs650 ( 741277 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:01PM (#30810954)
    "Why these trade rules aren't being used to enforce environmental agreements and not IP ones is somewhat beyond me."

    Because the US doesn't want to upgrade to Costa Rican environmental standards.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:02PM (#30810964)

    Costa Rica and the USA are members of the WTO. That does limit their freedom to take their ball and go home.

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by yakumo.unr ( 833476 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:13PM (#30811094) Homepage
  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:26PM (#30811234)

    No, its been that way since the dawn of recorded time. You know why? Because thats the way it works, the big guy sets the rules. This is nothing new. This is nothing unique to America. It will continue long after America is no longer of any importance at all.

    Just figuring this out now ... did you bother to go to your high school history class?

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by DriedClexler ( 814907 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:31PM (#30811318)

    You joke, but that was my reaction: "The US government is making my sugar more expensive? Oh noes! Maybe now I'll have to pay 205% of the world market price for it instead of the usual 200! And maybe 99% of the crap we eat will be infested with HFCS instead of just 98%. What EVER will we do..."

  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:50PM (#30811592)

    Meaning: before IP was invented, just a few hundred years ago, writers made no money. Which is, of course, absurd. IP is a scam, as much as religions or the war on drug.

    Actually, writers made no money from their books and often were a ward of the king or of a wealthy noble or were a poor monk or priest. And there were virtually no books, they were prohibitively expensive and nobody was literate because of this. But don't let history get in the way of your historically-based point.

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @03:51PM (#30811604)

    Hawaii is not a large producer of sugar anymore -all but one grower has shut down (and only one grower of pinneapple remains).
    The US is not a large importer of sugar because we grow enough to export and don't use as much per capita as many other areas (EU, India, etc.).
    There is no tariff on sugar from Costa Rica for the first 19,225 metric tons (2007 data).
    Sugar is not Costa Rica's main export - far from it - less than 2% of the agriculture exports.
    Sugar is fungible - if they don't sell to us, they can sell to others.
    Corn syrup is cheaper than cane sugar for us to produce. In Brazil, the opposite is true. That's due to environment and cultural and many other reasons.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:00PM (#30811700) Homepage

    Quite a bit longer than 150 years, and usually we push them around by military means as much as economic. Hence our repeated invasions of most of the countries in Latin America, as well as not infrequent support of coup attempts.

    As Maj Gen Smedley Butler put it back in the 1930's, when this sort of thing was in full swing:

    I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

    It's history like that, by the way, that makes accusations that the US supported the coup against Hugo Chavez carry significant weight (whether true or not).

  • by BhaKi ( 1316335 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:30PM (#30812112)

    I agree that IP is a scam.

    However, the concept that your example is talking about is Copyright, which is just one kind of IP. I don't think the Costa Rican government (or any other government, for that matter) would have a problem with that. The problem here is really about the other kind - the Patents. Many governments across the world are unwilling or reluctant to extend US patent laws into their own countries, for atleast three reasons. Firstly, patents are a stupid concept. They feel meaningful to many of us only because they have been around for quite some time. Secondly, patents encourage monopolies. Thirdly, the US's patent system is severely broken. I believe that this opposition from Costa Rica is towards patents.

  • Re:"IP La" (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:41PM (#30812274)

    They need to stop tagging these as YRO, this has nothing to do with online.

    Your saying that Intellectual property and copyright law has nothing to do with nerds? Your obviously in the wrong forum...

  • Re:"Free" like I say (Score:5, Informative)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:47PM (#30812356)
    This is why a standing army is a bad thing mkay. There's a reason the founding fathers didn't make any structure for it in the constitution and in fact wrote quite strongly against it. It's a lot harder to suppress the populace if you have to raise your army from their ranks.
  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by C0vardeAn0nim0 ( 232451 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @04:56PM (#30812436) Journal

    The US is not a large importer of sugar because we grow enough to export

    check yor facts. the US is _not_ an exporter of proccessed sugar. not of the sugarcane variety, not of the beet variety

    There is no tariff on sugar from Costa Rica for the first 19,225 metric tons

    which means theres still a tariff. where's the fabled "free market", then ?

    Corn syrup is cheaper than cane sugar for us to produce.

    because of high levels of subsidy from the federal government. take those away and imported sugar from brasil, thailand, etc. becomes cheaper, even factoring transport costs.

    USA is the hypocritical of all countries when the subject is international trade. when in benefits the US, lets all "free trade", but when it steps on a few lobbists toes, it's heavy tariffs here, restrictions there, sanctions somewhere else.

    no wonder developing nations are more and more trading between themselves than with US.

    [citation needed] ? here it is [] (in portuguese). to sum it up, china is now brasils larget comercial partner. all asian nations togheter now respond for 30% of our exports. in my 35 years of life i saw the importance of the US as a trade partner drop from more than 40% of our comerce to less than 12%. some of this change can be attributed to the growth of asian nations, but some of them you can put on american atitude too.

    oh, and sorry for the harshness of this post. mod me as a troll, but sometimes things have to be said.

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:2, Informative)

    by TheoMurpse ( 729043 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:19PM (#30812714) Homepage

    To be fair, the HFCS "scare" is blown way out of proportion. People are so fat nowadays primarily because they eat way too much. Period. HFCS may have a small connection with increased obesity, but not like our portions quintupling in size over the past forty years has.

    You can decide for yourself [] whether HFCS is so much worse for you than cane sugar that it warrants incredulity at commercials for the product.

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Raptoer ( 984438 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:21PM (#30812742)

    Ignoring contaminates, HFCS used in the majority of products is a mixture of about 50% glucose and 50% fructose (Both monosacharides). Sucrose (table sugar) is a disacharide made up of one glucose and one fructose bonded. Our body ends up having to break up the sucrose into glucose and fructose in order to process it, so mostly there is no difference between the two.

    There are three possible reasons that HFCS is worse than table sugar
    - HFCS doesn't require sucrase (the enzyme that breaks sucrose into the two monosacharides). This means that a person could ingest the same amounts of HFCS and sucrose, but get more energy out of the HFCS, because he doesn't have enough sucrase to break all of the sucrose up. I have no idea what the amount of sucrose we can process at once is though.

    -HFCS has to go through more chemical processing than table sugar, leading to the potentiality of additional contaminates.

    -Finally HFCS is CHEAP. That is the main difference, a food maker can easily put more in to make their product more appealing why leaving the price pretty low.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:32PM (#30812876)

    For all intensive purposes, "whom" is no longer a word. That begs the question, "who cares?"

    It's "For all intents and purposes," not for all intensive purposes. You're an idiot.

  • OT: What YRO means (Score:5, Informative)

    by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:43PM (#30813000)

    For the thousandth time, it's clearly "Your Rights" Online, not Your "Rights Online".

    Or, if you prefer, think of it with a comma - Your Rights, Online.

    Every non-Internet story has comments like yours; you'd think after a few hundreds stories like this you'd figure it out ;)

  • by Drummergeek0 ( 1513771 ) <tony@3bdd.STRAWcom minus berry> on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:59PM (#30813216)

    I am a little thick headed :), thanks for the clarification.

  • Re:"IP La" (Score:3, Informative)

    by tuxgeek ( 872962 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:15PM (#30814060)

    If we really had out shit together, we would vote all these assholes out
    Unfortunately they, the whole of DC politicals, control the media that decides what propaganda to spread and how to manipulate it for maximum control of the imbeciles of America

    Being realistic, I've given up all hope and realized we're all fucked and going down the crapper at light speed

    Our only hope is that maybe someone out there can log in to Joshua and start a game of Global Thermonuclear War. After that we can start over from scratch and do it all differently next time ..

  • Costa Rica (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:18PM (#30814100)

    I've lived in Costa Rica. Pura Vida!
    I've eaten sugar directly from the cane. Don't swallow the fiber.
    Most of what Costa Rica exports are bananas, pineapples, coffee and microprocessors.

    Tourism brings more money to Costa Rica than b-p-c combined.

    While there, the teens I knew were all trying to get jobs with HP, Intel, Oracle, etc. or to work in an call center.

    The Tico Times hasn't reported this story, that I've seen. This is the closest story [] That story did say that sugar export profits rose over 77% due to CAFTA although almost all other exports are down 30+% due to global economic conditions. Interesting.

  • Re:Legality (Score:2, Informative)

    by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @08:34PM (#30814736)

    It's not that simple - The CR lawmakers are trying to pass legislation (as required by CAFTA) to meet the IP requirements - but are being blocked in CR by other lawmakers who are insisting that the laws go above and beyond what CAFTA requires.

    It's nowhere near as black and white as "We're ignoring this" "We're ignoring that". To comply with CAFTA - Costa Rica had to pass a bunch of new laws to bring it's legal system up to cafta regulations - now that deadlines are passing, the US is exerting pressure. Whether that pressure is right or wrong is political, I don't know enough about the situation - but from what I've seen, it's likely US pressure to go above and beyond what CAFTA requires to pass *bad* legislation here in CR.

    (IN CR, it is notoriously easy to throw a monkeywrench into any new law.. which is good and bad)

    For example, I can walk into the local video store and rent anything, it's all pirated stuff. Great selection. Great prices. Great location. Great service. It's not stricty legal, but unless the rightsholders want to show up in person, set up a legal presence in the country, hire lawyers, and go to court - they can't do anything about it. No law enforcement is going to just magically show up and start shutting them down without someone pressing charges (at least that's my understanding.). IN other words - if you want your copyright enforced here, you shoudl have some kind of business presence here. If you don't - we're not interested.

  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @08:52PM (#30814888)

    The attack seems to be to get an IP law that is even more draconian than what CAFTA requires passed - lawmakers aren't taking issue with CAFTA, but with the current proposal on the table. Various parties, who knows, probably want the more draconian version put in.

    Why sugar? BEcause it wont' kill CR - it will just exert some pressure. If you block coffee and bananas, that's economic warfar, and will escalate things horribly. Sugar - sugar will just cause a bit of political pressure down here to possibly get the legislature to pass what it is required to do a bit more quickly.

  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @09:48PM (#30815266)
    There are apparently recent medical journal articles about liver problems from HFCS over and above the usual problems from obesity. I'm no doctor so all I can do is point out a link to an interview with Dr Robert Lustig (Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology - University of California)that explains what the situation appears to be: []
    Sometimes it's better to get an adult point of view instead of press releases crafted by public relations companies.
    Of course your point about eating too much is the main thing, but eating too much of some things is worse than eating too much of others.
  • Re:Never Fear!!!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by PlusFiveTroll ( 754249 ) on Monday January 18, 2010 @11:09PM (#30815666) Homepage []

    Some trans-fat is natural, in milk or fat from animals. The rest is artificial created by the process of hydrogenation.

  • by Fnord666 ( 889225 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @01:00AM (#30816220) Journal

    While Michael Geist states that they are [] and that the US is deliberately blocking exports

    The response from the U.S. is important as well. It is delaying market access to sugar from the developing country until the copyright reforms are in place. Until that time, Costa Rican sugar producers will not be able to sell their product in the U.S.

    a technollama article [] that Geist cited does not seem to have the same opinion. They were not able to confirm a connection between the issues and in fact found information to the contrary.

    I was able to track down some more information about this other than the poorly-reference Tico Times article. La Nación reported that the problem was first highlighted by sugar cane exporters in Costa Rica earlier this week. The exporters complained that they have 11.880 metric tonnes of sugar in storage, which has already been sold to American importers, but that cannot be sent because of CAFTA restrictions. The American embassy is quoted in that same article as stating that this has nothing to do with CAFTA, and that it is simply a matter of the country having reached its allocated sugar export quotas. This seems like an accurate appraisal of the situations, as I was unable to find a single reference outside of the Tico Times stating that the United States had threatened Costa Rica at all. In fact, raw cane sugar quotas for 2010 were announced by the U.S. Trade Representative back in September 2009, and are "based on the countries' historical shipments to the United States".

    For reference, the article [] simply stated

    Yet, until the final piece is approved, the United States is delaying market access to sugar. Costa Rican sugar producers will not be able to sell their product in the U.S. unless legislators approve the last part, known as the 14th amendment.

    but as the technollama article indicates, no one else has said this and it could not be confirmed.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito