WTO Negotiators Reopen Talks On GI Extension With No New Movement 16/03/2006 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate. Key delegations on opposite sides of a proposal at the World Trade Organization to higher protection for geographical indication (GIs) beyond wines and spirits again listened to each other’s arguments today, but neither camp moved closer to compromise, according to participants. The informal consultations were chaired by WTO Deputy Director General Rufus Yerxa. A significant portion of the consultations focused on procedure as governments disagree on whether there is a mandate to discuss this proposal. The consultation is tentatively scheduled to continue on 23 March. One source said that only two countries could be credited with trying to show an openness to other views: Brazil and India. Brazil said it had an “open mind” towards the extension idea but was concerned about extra costs and burdens it could add to its own procedures. India also said it was worried about the costs but said this could be taken into consideration in any outcome, the source said. India is on the side of the European Union (the primary driver behind the proposal), Switzerland, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and others who favour an extension. They are pitted against a number of countries, especially those from the “New World,” such as Australia. There is an “Friends of GIs” group whose membership changes but which at some point had 80 member countries, an official from the group said. GIs refer to names derived from geographic places or origins such as Parma ham, but they could also be less well-known names for local food products, one official said. Proponents want the higher level protection that wines and spirits currently enjoy under Article 23 of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to also apply to other GI products, which today have to be protected but only at the “regular” level under Article 22 of TRIPS, a source said. Those seeking change urged faster progress and new debate, while opponents said more information is needed. For instance, Australia requested real-life examples of how the regular protection that GIs currently have is not sufficient, a source said. The discussions were based on a document prepared by the WTO secretariat, which compiled more than 90 questions submitted by member states. But only a handful of questions under one of the eight headings (“general points”) were discussed, sources said. Most of the remaining questions appear to focus on impact of new levels of protection. Tie-In with Doha Round Negotiations There is no coincidence that the first hour of the consultation was spent discussing procedure: member countries actually disagree as to whether this should be discussed or not. As a “friend of the director general,” Yerxa has since July 2004 been in charge of these consultations, which are taking place in parallel, and separately to, meetings of the WTO TRIPS Council. Yerxa is also in charge of consultations on TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was discussed this week (IPW, TRIPS/WTO, 16 March). He is expected to report to each regular meeting of the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee and the General Council. One source said after the 16 March consultations that he was wondering what Yerxa was planning to report as there was in fact “nothing to report.” The GI extension issue is an “implementation” issue, meaning that it is paragraph 12(b) of the Doha Declaration and paragraph 39 of the WTO Hong Kong Declaration. It states that “ … The Council shall review progress and take any appropriate action no later than 31 July 2006.” If nothing moves in the Yerxa consultations until then, the issue could be taken up in higher levels of the Doha round talks, which are supposed to conclude by the end of 2006. This is a single undertaking, meaning that nothing is agreed until everything in all the various areas of the trade talks has been agreed to. The European Union has tied the issue of GI extension to the talks on a GI multilateral register for GIs for wines and spirits. The EU has also indicated that it cannot move in the area of agriculture unless something happens on its requests for GIs, a source said. TRIPS Council Restarts Talks on GI Register In the afternoon of 16 March, delegates moved into a “special session” of the TRIPS Council, distinct from the morning’s consultations (IPW, TRIPS/WTO, 27 February 2006). This discussion is on the multilateral register for GIs for wines and spirits, and is chaired by Pakistani ambassador Manzoor Ahmad (under paragraph 29 on “TRIPS negotiations” of the Hong Kong Declaration). At press time there were no major developments in these talks, which continue on Friday 17 March. "WTO Negotiators Reopen Talks On GI Extension With No New Movement" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.