Category Archives: Transportation-Trade

Tesla Self-Driving Car Follow Up  <- First Post


Tesla’s Autonomous driving mode update for its Model S has been out for some time now.  During this time many consumers have downloaded and used the update.  What they found was definitely the beta version.  People have posted videos showing the autonomous mode driving into oncoming traffic and swerving when white lines were not on both sides of the car.  Other have reported the car speeding and getting pulled over by police.  As Musk said when he introduced it, “We’re being especially cautious at this early stage, so we’re advising drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case. The software is very new.”  So of course there are going to be some problems with it, but overall people are pleased with the results so far.  It will be interesting to see how this new feature will progress over the coming months and years.

Recently however Musk did answer one of the liability claims that has swirled around this new update, who is responsible when things go wrong?  Tesla said, “Tesla is very clear about the fact that the driver is responsible for the car at all times and should be actively in control, despite the AutoPilot system: it will be the driver’s fault, not Tesla’s if the car ends up in a road traffic collision.”  But I don’t know if this is the correct answer and I wonder if it could be proved wrong in court?  Guess we are just going to have to wait and find out.

Here are some videos posted by owners of the rogue autonomous mode mishaps:



Proportional Outsourcing

Although offshore outsourcing is a concept commonly identified with the Western world, the highly-criticized business practice serves as a prevalent issue in the 21st century across the globe. Outsourcing is considered unfavorable by many, predominantly due to its association with job loss. Canada, Australia, Singapore and the United States are among the world’s top outsourcing countries. As a result, outsourcing has contributed to an increase in unemployment in many of these nation states. The Australian corporation, Telstra, has singularly moved 10,000 of its 38,000 jobs overseas, leaving thousands of Australians unemployed. Since Canada began offshoring call-center jobs to India in the 1900’s, the telecommunications industry has reclined 10 percent. Not to mention, the United States alone saw an elimination of one million jobs from the workforce between 1999 and 2010 solely as the result of outsourcing.

However, offshore outsourcing has provoked many negative effects on the receiving end as well, specifically in regards to environmental regulations. Since the signing of NAFTA, Mexico has greatly relaxed their environmental standards to be a competitive recipient of foreign jobs against China. As well, given the tax holidays that IT divisions receive in India, many North American industrial companies have rerouted their income through their IT departments while outsourcing the industrial work to India. As a result, India has been subject to an increase in pollution. Aside from environmental upheaval, India has also become the home of call centers for many corporations. Although this is not disadvantageous to the Indian people, the language barrier has proved ineffective for many companies, ensuing a decline in customer satisfaction. These disadvantages to outsourcing are among many others such as the discouragement of innovation at the state of origin and a drop in the number of people majoring in high-technological studies.

Still, many proponents of outsourcing contend its benefits such as the low costs of manufacturing externally. This ultimately allows for higher wages in other non-manufacturing positions internally. As well, it is claimed that outsourcing serves as a resourceful way to capitalize on modern technology by easily contacting talent across the world that is not readily available at home. Therefore, as the number of businesses taking part in outsourcing grows daily, it is necessary to promote global policy that considers the benefits of the practice while introducing regulations to prevent further negative economic and environmental repercussions. Various bills have been proposed in recent years to attempt to regulate the outsourcing process. The two bills put forth by the United States, the “Stop Outsourcing and Create American Jobs Act of 2010” and the “Bring Jobs Home Act”, were refused by the U.S. Congress. Both bills sought to phase out outsourcing to ameliorate domestic issues such as unemployment and tax evasion. Still, the U.S. has yet to propose a bill that seeks a solution for all global participants.

Conversely, the E.U. “Services Directive in the Internal Market” was passed to embrace a more inclusive approach, considering both the sender and the receiver in the outsourcing process. The purpose of the law was to “liberalize freedom of establishment of E.U. enterprises and trade in services among E.U. Member States.” The directive facilitates the process for an enterprise incorporated in one E.U. state to operate in another by simplifying the procedures and formalities involved in outsourcing. However, it is accompanied by many standards and principles. For one, it requires a nondiscriminatory process for all nation states as to eliminate the possibility of antitrust. The “proportionality” principle also requires that local legislation on outsourcing must comply with minimal set standards in the Services Directive. This is favorable because the directive calls for a high level of consumer protection for businesses and individuals who serve as Service Recipients. The law further obliges all Member States to remain subject to their own labor laws while operating in foreign countries. Overall, the law removes adamant legal and administrative barriers to encourage outsourcing while still providing regulations in consideration of all participating parties.

If applied on an international level, the solutions developed by the European Union could eliminate many issues associated with outsourcing worldwide. Requiring companies to comply with their own domestic laws abroad would reduce extraneous outsourcing because corporations would no longer move operations overseas for the sole purpose of tax evasion or low environmental standards. This serves as a win-win situation because it would prevent companies from curtailing environmental standards abroad, as with Mexico, and it would concurrently maintain some employment back home. Likewise, the implementation of a comparable “proportionality” principle would prohibit companies from applying their own relaxed domestic codes in foreign nations with stricter laws. In this way, minimal standards would prevent issues as in the case, Sumitomo Shoji Am v. Avagliano, in which a Japanese subsidiary attempted to evade U.S. discrimination laws by calling upon Japan’s lower set standards. Provisions of the like could be employed in multiple ways transnationally, as with FCN Treaties or other forms of international legislation. As it stands, many companies worldwide are taking advantage of the minimally-regulated outsourcing process. While living in a time when globalization is rapidly expanding, it is crucial to connect with foreign nation states through outsourcing. But at the same time, regulations must be applied to prevent a manipulation of the system.

When IP laws hinder healthcare

In my last blog post, I discussed the development of intellectual property law within the trade industry. With TRIPS (the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) as a minimum standard for IP protection, the United States has broadened IP laws even further through a combination of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs). This protection is specifically crucial for the pharmaceutical industry, considering that 10-30% of drugs in developing states are counterfeit. But the balancing act of enacting IP protection is especially important in these nations because too stringent of laws may serve as a great obstacle to growth.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is currently the largest U.S. FTA to date, was just agreed upon by 12 Pacific Rim nation states. In addition to eliminating barriers to free trade and heightening environmental standards between and across these nations, the TPP calls for stricter standards for intellectual property. The United States government claims that, “TPP’s Intellectual Property (IP) chapter will help Americans take full advantage of our country’s innovative strengths and help to promote trade and innovation, as well as to advance scientific, technological and creative exchange throughout the region.” This statement is accurate, as existing United States’ intellectual property law is used as a foundation for the agreed-upon provisions in the TPP. However, many of the nations that are parties to the agreement are unlikely to be able to execute the high standards set by the U.S. This is especially true for Vietnam, the weakest and poorest party to the partnership.

The TPP sets a 5-8 year data exclusivity standard for biologics and allows for the process of evergreening, which occurs when drug companies request patents for new uses of old drugs. These are only a few of the strict IP provisions presented in the TPP. Judit Rius Sanjuan, a legal adviser to Médecins Sans Frontières has said, “I am sure it will increase the prices of medicine. It will take components of US law and export them to other countries, and create a new global norm that will change the way the TRIPS agreement was negotiated.” This was exactly the case in Guatemala after the Central American Free Trade Agreement was ratified. Whereas many drugs in the US had already become available in generic forms, Guatemalans were still paying high prices for name brands.

Because it controls the majority of intellectual property worldwide, there is great incentive for the United States to require heightened IP standards. And actually, in many fields such as the tech and film industries, these strict standards are satisfactory. But where human health is involved, it has for a long time been common practice to loosen IP laws. The U.S. has previously relaxed IP requirements in bilateral FTAs with Colombia, Panama and Peru, even including the use of compulsory licensing. If the TPP is ratified, drug prices will likely surge throughout developing nations around the globe, at which point the US will be called upon to help pick up the pieces. This should have been of consideration within negotiating the TPP, among other pitfalls that will come to light if the agreement is approved by Congress.


Read the full text of the TPP at the USTR website here.


A video from June, 2013 that speaks to more issues within the IP chapter of the TPP:

Finding the IP balance

The different groups in our Disruption Technology Law course have been looking at the transformation of various industries as a result of disruptive technologies. Although we have discussed some of the interconnectivity between industries, I would argue that the trade industry is inherently interconnected with every other industry being examined by our class. One area in which this is especially apparent is intellectual property (IP) rights under trade law. A countless number of industries are dependent on intellectual property. Patent law is crucial for industries in aerospace, automotive, computers, consumer electronics, pharmaceuticals, and semiconductors. Industries in software, data processing, motion pictures, publishing, and recording are likewise reliant on copyright. So why do we care? These industries contribute to the overall US trade balance through royalties and licensing fees. But to take a more direct look on how this affects the US economy, Tufts conducted a study and found that the estimated cost for developing a new drug is $800 million, taking an average of 10-15 years to create. In turn, these drugs are then relatively easy to counterfeit abroad, resulting in huge losses for American pharmaceutical companies. In fact, between 10-30% of drugs in developing nations are now counterfeit. On another note, the motion picture industry lost $6.1 billion to piracy in 2005.

So why not just expand intellectual property laws to protect more American companies? Internationally, it’s not that simple. To understand why, we have to take a closer look at current US and international trade law. Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, is the principle US statute for identifying foreign trade barriers due to inadequate IP protection. By the 30th of April of each year, the Office of the US Trade Representative must identify countries that do not offer “adequate and effective protection of IP” or “fair and equitable market access to US persons that rely upon IP rights.” Those labeled “Priority Foreign Countries” with very egregious policies will go through an investigation and possibly be subject to sanctions by the United States. But this process is lengthy and not always soundproof in analyzing both the scope and level of infringement. It is also much more expansive than current international agreements on trade law and therefore elicits higher standards than some developing countries are able to meet.

The existing international protection for IP infringement is the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). TRIPS was created under the World Trade Organization during the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. This agreement sets minimum standards for all members of the WTO, such as, copyright terms must extend at least 50 years after the death of the author. TRIPS was the first incorporation of IP rights into the multilateral trading system and requires both national treatment and most-favored nation treatment. Yet, it has been argued that these standards place too great a burden on developing nations. For this reason, certain nations (including post-Soviet nations) were given an extra four years to reform their intellectual property standards. The Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health also allowed for delayed implementation of patent system provisions for pharmaceutical products in least developed countries. Compulsory licensing is even permitted for some of these nations with waived domestic market provisions for certain diseases. This leniency is due to the fact that IP expansion can be an obstacle to growth for developing nations. Higher fees for licenses can stint innovation. It is also much more difficult for developing nations to properly implement such great reforms. On the other hand, higher standards might bring developing nations up to speed and make them more attractive to foreign trading partners.

One method of addressing this problem for developing nations has been through Free Trade Agreements. Bilateral, and some multilateral, FTAs have the ability to personalize IP standards to individual nations. With TRIPS as the minimum standards for IP protection, FTAs can then strengthen the regime even further. NAFTA is an example of an FTA with relatively stringent IP standards. On the other hand, FTAs between the United States and Colombia, Panama and Peru include much more relaxed IP requirements. A top concern in creating these three particular agreements was finding the balance between preserving owners’ IP rights while promoting access to life-saving medicines. Although copyright standards were heightened across the board, the US found a moral issue with preventing these countries’ access to life necessities and thus made exceptions for patent laws. But if standards remain relaxed, American pharmaceutical companies will continue to experience significant losses in profit. How do we move forward with intellectual property protection to better secure owners’ rights while catering to developing nations? Is there a way to successfully increase these countries’ standards through FTAs or on an entirely new platform?


For more information, see the following CRS report:

The Analogy’s Analogy

Last Spring, I took a course on global policy and found that many young people in the class were unaware of the concept of Net Neutrality. After many attempts to figure out the best way to explain Net Neutrality, especially to people who are unfamiliar with technology, I came up with the following analogy. I used a well-known philosophical concept, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, to explain how Internet Service Providers are prioritizing data and ultimately creating programmed censorship.

Tesla’s Hyperloop Train

We all know the company Tesla and it’s owner Elon Musk.  However, we might not all know that he is planning another huge innovation in consumer transportation, and it’s way bigger than the all electric car.  He is planning to build a train system that will get you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 min, which is about a 400 mile trip that takes between 6 and 8 hours to drive.  Musk plans to build this train by using magnets and a airless tube.  The train will be put inside a tube with no air in it (a vacuum) and this will enable the train to not be affected by air resistance.  Along the tube there will be a series of magnets that will provide lift and propel the train down the tube.  It will be powered by solar panels that will sit on top of the tube. I’ve attached a video and an article to this post with more information about it.  It is an extremely interesting concept and if it works will forever change the way we travel.

RFID- Its technology and future developments

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Technology) is a technology that is not only used in disruptive technology but will only enable the technology to evolve and expand into other sectors! According to RFID technology is found in several aspects within the transportation industry. In the trucking industry the CRESCENT program on the west coast allowed trucks to bypass weigh stations by using a weigh in motion system. The program has now been applied to more than 30 states that utilize a common RFID tag in order for trucks not to have a different tag for each weigh in system.

Airports have also implemented this technology in their tracking of excess parking in arrival/departure areas. Airports have discovered that they can utilize RFID toll tags to keep track of individual parking times much to the expense of the jobs at exit booths. This technology has also found its way into the rail industry as well. One of the major problems that interstate railroads face is knowing which trains belong to which company at any given time. This means that a train could switch cars in a different state and the company of that train would not know for weeks, months, or even years. A potential solution to this problem came in the 1980s with the introduction of RFID tags one on either side of the train. The problem with these tags was that many could not withstand the extreme temperature of the cargo they were carrying. Other developments such as trailer tracking and container tracking have been looked into but never implemented as the RFID tag process was eventually hauled.

One of the most common aspects of RFID in public transportation are tolls. Companies such as EZ-Pass present RFID technology as an alternative for customers to traditional cash payments. One of the biggest challenges for this technology has been the acceptance of multiple tag protocols with each vendor unwilling to release their implementation secrets. This problem came to a head when tolls in the northeast began to see the value in RFID technology for congestion at tunnels, bridges, and toll roads as thousands used traveled through each form of infrastructure daily. The solution was a common protocol for all vendors to license their RFID technology. Some chose to license their protocols with other vendors while others chose to develop dual protocol tags to be used within multiple applications.

RFID technology has also been proposed for guns ushering in a new era for smart gun technology. This technology already available in other countries has been introduced to California by Armatix of Munich, Germany. This 22 LR caliber 10 round pistol uses a target response system only allows the gun to fire when the user has fired it on a recognized target. The pistol is also paired with a iw1 active RFID watch which is a PIN activated wristwatch that communicates with the gun to arm it for firing. Without the watch, the gun cannot be fired. Smart guns are also developed by Triggersmart headquartered in County Limerick Ireland. Their gun also uses a RFID tag similar to Armatix that will not fire unless it is in the hands of an authorized user.

For the transportation industry RFID has proven to be a key player. It has allowed for faster interstate transportation with programs such as CRESCENT and EZ-Pass for tolls. The airline and train industries have also began utilizing this technology with varying success. As RFID has continued to evolve the transportation industry it has expanded into other products such as smart gun technology. While RFID has not been limited to these industries it has shown to change the framework of traditional methods for these industries. Some question to consider as this technology evolves are the following: Who benefits and does not as a result? What other everyday products will RFID eventually infiltrate?

For more on RFID in transportation click here

For more on smart gun technology click here


TPP’s Negative Side

The TPP is going to bring a lot of disruption, positive disruption. It will improve economic growth and increase the United States’ trade and investment ties with the countries in the partnership. However, this will also bring some negative disruption. For example, costs are going to rise drastically due to the increase in trade between the countries. Countries such as Vietnam do not have the capacity to match and the competition might be too much for them to survive. In my opinion, I think every country still has an opportunity to capitalize this opportunity if the TPP passes.

The shift in Free Trade Agreements


With the rise of globalization and interconnectivity  across nation states, Free Trade Agreements have experienced shifts between multilateral and bilateral approaches. I created this infographic to relay the important aspects of both and to show how these shifts address concerns following changes in technology and innovation.

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