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IP-Watch interns talk about their Geneva experience in summer 2013. 2:42.

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    As Multilateralism Comes Into Question, WTO Trade Ministers Extend Deadlines

    Published on 19 December 2011 @ 4:05 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    With the negotiations of the Doha Development Agenda formally recognised to be at a standstill, not much was expected from the World Trade Organization’s Eighth Ministerial Conference. There were no surprises at the meeting close as conference Chairman Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga gavelled through the seven matters that were set before the trade ministers.

    Official documents from the WTO Eighth Ministerial Conference held 15-17 December are available here.

    Mostly the decisions at the end approved extensions on deadlines, including those related to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Many trade officials called the two decisions directly related to TRIPS – the transition period for least-developed countries and a moratorium on non-violation complaints – “procedural” more than substantive. One official said that it was symptomatic of the current crisis in multilateralism.

    “There are discussions here [at the WTO ministerial conference] about plurilateralism in some forms, in some ways. But in IP, we already saw a trend, also with ACTA [the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement]. IP might be symptomatic of a broader trend in the sense that a plurilateral avenue is chosen when the multilateral route seems to lead to a dead end. Maybe the symptoms have shown earlier in IP than in other areas.”

    A Political Statement

    In fact, the decision related to the transition period for LDCs was more of a “political statement” than a bona fide way forward. Ultimately, upon recommendation from the TRIPS Council, trade ministers invited the TRIPS Council to consider extending the period for LDCs to meet their obligations under TRIPS. A political process which a European Union official called “ironic” and said that it left some members of the council “scratching our heads” at the circular logic of recommending the Ministerial to instruct the same council to take action. The EU official considered that its placement on the agenda was more of “a show of goodwill” than a decision with any real impact.

    Minister Muhammed Faruk Khan of Bangladesh did not agree. He said that trade ministers have now provided the TRIPS Council important “political direction.” His country submitted the request for the extension to the Ministerial Conference on behalf of the LDC group. The length of the extension period has not yet been specified but Khan suggested 7-10 years. The current extension runs out in 2013.

    During this extension period, the council tasked LDCs to provide an assessment of their technical and financial needs in meeting TRIPS obligations. Bangladesh is one of the six countries of the 31 LDCs to have done so. Khan called the process both expensive and complicated: “We have been through it and it is a very difficult process. Not all countries have the capacity to do it. And they need support to conduct these assessments.”

    More Extensions

    Regarding the decision related to “TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints,” the ministerial approved an extension on the moratorium until the next ministerial in 2013. In the meantime, WTO members are instructed “not to initiate such complaints under the TRIPS Agreement.” According to the WTO website, the question is whether or not countries could bring cases against each other under TRIPS if one feels that another government has deprived it of an expected benefit, even if no WTO agreement has been violated.

    The United States and Switzerland are the only members to argue that there is a place for such complaints under TRIPS. Many countries argue that they have not made a proper case to explain the modalities of use. One delegate from a developing country said, “We are not saying that we are necessarily against it in principle, but we haven’t seen any theoretical or practical examples of how it would be defined or used.”

    Another extension granted was in regard to electronic commerce. The ministerial decided to “maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until our next session.” Under the work programme on electronic commerce, the General Council has been instructed to continue the study of and pursue the possibility of a mechanism related to e-commerce and development. In the meantime, time reviews should be held on progress made and potential recommendations before the next ministerial in 2013.

    Other decisions included a recommendation to further streamline the accession process for LDCs, continuation of the work programme on small economies, a services waiver for LDCs allowing for preferential treatment to services of poorest countries the next 15 years, and approval of the Fourth Appraisal of the Trade Policy Review Mechanism.

    Along with the Government Procurement Agreement, the accessions of four countries including Russia (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 16 December 2011) were hailed as this ministerial’s most notable achievements.

    Rachel Marusak Hermann may be reached at info@ip-watch.org.

     

    Comments

    1. Next WTO Ministerial To Be In Bali In December 2013 | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] last WTO ministerial was held in Geneva in December 2011 (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 19 December 2011). Related [...]


    Leave a Reply

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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