Thursday, 12 April 2012


The USTR has words of praise, and some minor critique, of New Zealand.* I read some of their critique also as praise.

Here's some praise:
Tariff rates in New Zealand are generally low as a result of several rounds of unilateral tariff cuts that began in the mid-1980s.  At 2.1 percent, New Zealand has one of the lowest average most favored nation (MFN) applied tariff rates among industrialized countries.  The average applied MFN tariff rate was 1.5 percent for agricultural products in 2009 and 2.2 percent for industrial goods.  In 2010, approximately 95 percent of all imports to New Zealand (by value) entered duty free.  Approximately 47.5 percent of New Zealand's MFN tariff lines are bound at zero duty rates, and 63.1 percent of lines are applied at zero.  The New Zealand government has stated that import tariffs will not be reviewed until 2013 and will remain at their current levels until at least 2015.
But they've a few critiques. They rightly note that our investment screening regime is a trade barrier to foreign investment in land; they're right. It's become politically arbitrary and needs to be fixed.

But I disagree rather strongly with two other assessments. They reckon it a bad thing that the draft patent reform bill would ban software patents; I don't. But I also don't expect that part of the bill to survive US pressure via TPP.

They also don't like that we let ISPs charge rights-holders, US or otherwise, NZ$25 for issuing an infringement notice. If each infringer really causes substantial damages, as rights-holders like to claim, the $25 shouldn't be an issue. But USTR says "The cost has deterred some rights holders from using the system."

USTR needs to think hard about optimal enforcement; it would be surprising if it were worthwhile to pursue enforcement action - which does impose real costs on both the ISP and the accused - where the damaged party doesn't reckon it worth $25. Heck, our small claims court charges $36.30 as its smallest possible fee for dispute resolution.
You need to pay the following fee to the Tribunal when you lodge your claim from 1 July 2011.
If the total amount sought under the claim is less than $1,000$36.30
If the total amount sought under the claim is $1,000 or more but less than $5,000$60.40
If the total amount sought under the claim is $5,000 or more$120.80
If $25 deters US copyright giants from pursuing claims against alleged Kiwi infringers, it's amazing that anybody here is able to access our small claims system. Especially if infringements cost rights-holders $150k.

*HT: @PiratePartyNZ

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