International Change and National Responses: Social Coalitions and Patent Politics in Latin America in the 1990s

Friday, 3 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW1.1.04 (Tower One)
Ken Shadlen, LSE, London, United Kingdom
How countries respond to international shocks is one of – if not the – foundational questions in comparative and international political economy. This paper examines this question through analysis of Latin American responses to changes in the global intellectual property regime. The WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) required all developing countries to introduce new patent systems in the 1990s. At the same time, developing countries faced considerable pressures from the US government to over-comply with their international obligations and introduce “maximalist” patent regimes.

Argentina and Brazil responded differently to these dual pressures. In Argentina the President submitted a proposal that greatly exceeded the country’s obligations under TRIPS and satisfied the demands of the US government and its industry allies, though years of Executive-Legislative conflict produced a law with virtually all of the maximalist provisions removed. In Brazil, the President initially resisted US pressures and submitted a more moderate proposal, only for the legislative process to yield an over-compliant, maximalist law. To explain these divergent outcomes I focus on the characteristics of the national and transnational pharmaceutical sectors, which were at the core of the rival coalitions for minimalist compliance and maximalist over-compliance, respectively. I then consider how external pressures, particularly trade sanctions from the US, interacted with each country’s export structure to affect the relative strength of the coalition for over-compliance. The analysis utilizes within-case process tracing to consider the joint effects of these two sources of coalitional change.