WTO Doha Round Suspended Indefinitely, IP Issues May Be Kept On Table 24/07/2006 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)After some five years of negotiations, the World Trade Organization (WTO) free-trade talks were halted today as ministers of key countries left the negotiating table. But key intellectual property issues will be kept on the table for whenever they return, sources said. Ministers of six key members – Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States – discussed the trade round until late on 23 July in Geneva, but when agreement on how to proceed could not be reached, it was decided to discontinue the round. The round launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001 is dead for the time being, but this does not mean that it will not continue later, sources said. When this would be, however, is not clear. “All of us today are losers,” WTO Director General Pascal Lamy told a press conference, adding that the consequences would be “grave.” Lamy said the round would not be concluded by the end of the year, as stated in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration from December 2005. This will push it past next year’s expiration of the US government’s mandate from the US Congress to negotiate unalterable trade deals. The loss of such trade-negotiating authority would put a serious damper on other countries’ incentive to negotiate. All negotiations are suspended until “members are ready to play ball,” Lamy said, adding that they are running the risk of losing what is on the table altogether. Developing countries stand to lose the most, as this was intended to be a “development round,” one developing country official told Intellectual Property Watch. “We are losers in this, for sure,” the official said. The round is “between intensive care and the crematorium,” Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said in a 24 July WTO press conference. “It is a loss for everybody. One hundred and fifty countries have missed the bus.” The end of the talks means that important developing country issues, such as the relationship between the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) likely will not go forward for the time being. This issue has been seen by some as outside of the mandate of this round of talks. Biodiversity Patent Disclosure, Geographical Indications Still to be Pushed A number of developing countries, including Brazil, China and India, have proposed that the TRIPS agreement be changed to make it mandatory to include disclosure the origin of genetic resources in patent applications (IPW, Genetic Resources, 7 June 2006). Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told Intellectual Property Watch that Brazil “will continue to push” the issue although he noted that “all the groups are stuck,” referring to the negotiations in general. India’s Nath agreed. He told Intellectual Property Watch: “Of course we will continue to push” for disclosure of origin in patent applications, as the CBD issue has been an “important ingredient of this round.” But he added that India and the other supporters of the CBD issue did not want it to become an “instrument of abuse” through unfair use, saying that it should not be something these countries would have to use to trade off for something else. The European Union is also determined to keep its demand regarding geographical indications (GIs), referring to products deriving their names from geographic places, alive. European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mariann Fischer Boel, told Intellectual Property Watch that the GIs are “extremely important” for southern European countries in particular. She said the European Union would therefore keep the issue on the table, meaning not only on the EU agenda, but “on this [the WTO] table as well.” Who Is To Be Blamed? All of the ministers who spoke today expressed disappointment about the situation, many pointing to the European Union and the United States. European External Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson expressed “profound disappointment and sadness,” adding that the suspension of talks was neither “desirable nor inevitable.” He said everybody showed flexibilities at the 23 July meeting except the United States. Mandelson said the US believed it was “entitled to get compensation for every dollar in farm subsidies they will lose,” and that this would be paid for by developing countries opening up their markets. The European Union “is not giving up on this round,” Mandelson said, adding that it was ready to pick up where the talks left off. US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said, “Today truly represents a failure,” but added that it is not time to say, “take it or leave it.” “We’re going do everything we can” to continue the round, he said. US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said that the United States will remain “fully committed” to the WTO and the multilateral agenda. US industry groups quickly announced their disappointment, but adopted the stance that “no outcome is better than a bad outcome.” Nath also said that in this meeting, the EU made a move off of its previous position and that everyone put something on the table except one country (seen as a reference to the United States), which said it could not see anything change in others’ positions. Amorim appeared to agree with that assessment. But Amorim still believes in the WTO system, he said. “For developing countries, especially them, the WTO is irreplaceable.” Lamy, Schwab and Amorim said that due to the current situation, an increase in the use of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism is to be expected. 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