Public Forum Debate On WTO’s Future Touches On IP Issues 02/10/2006 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)By Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen The implementation process of global intellectual property rules was debated at a recent World Trade Organization public forum, which focused on the overall future of the organisation. According to the WTO, the 25-26 September forum drew some 1,000 participants from civil society who are not normally taking the centre stage at the WTO, but who now had an opportunity to voice their opinion on “What WTO for the XXIst Century?” WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said it was no surprise that the forum was well attended this year “with the multilateral talks crashed (IP-Watch, WTO/TRIPS, 24 July 2006). Accidents draw many spectators.” But he said civil society’s input was “urgently needed” to determine the future of the WTO. Lamy also referred to various meetings of ministers taking place around the world, and said he hoped the WTO members would spend the coming weeks on “quiet diplomacy” and “discreet bridge-building.” Various sources have indicated that WTO free-trade negotiations should resume no later than November for there to be hope for the round. TRIPS Implementation Questioned Carolyn Deere, a senior researcher at the Global Economic Governance Programme at Oxford University, called for greater attention to the politics surrounding the implementation of some WTO Agreements. She emphasised the need for a political analysis of the technical assistance and training that countries receive for implementing WTO rules, especially the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Deere also said there is a need for more scholarly analysis of the WTO trade policy reviews, which are period peer group assessments of the national trade policies of WTO members, and in particular of the WTO secretariat reports on members’ trade policy frameworks. She argued that more scrutiny is needed of both what the secretariat says in these reports, and what it does not say. In the section of the WTO secretariat reports that focus on intellectual property, there is considerable emphasis on WTO members’ obligations and deadlines but few mentions of the flexibilities that countries have under the TRIPS agreement, Deere said. But a member of the WTO secretariat commented in the meeting that TRIPS is not the “sole origin” of intellectual property as many countries’ obligations go “way beyond TRIPS,” which only lays out minimum standards. He referred to other IP agreements such as those under the World Intellectual Property Organization. The TRIPS agreement and the WTO should not replace countries’ domestic processes of finding their own IP policy, he said. Anthony Hill, former ambassador of Jamaica, said that the TRIPS agreement should be taken out of the WTO and “never should have been there.” Rather, it had originally been related to discussions on trade in counterfeit goods, he said. The issue was discussed in a session bearing the title: “Decision-making in the WTO: medieval or up-to-date?” Also on the panel, Vicente Paolo Yu of the Geneva-based intergovernmental organisation the South Centre said that the current consensus rule at the WTO is passive, and called for making it more explicit in order to know what is the basis for countries’ decisions. He said there currently is no official negotiating history at the WTO. Another session at the forum focused on “The role of the media in boosting public awareness and debate of trade policy making.” Journalists talked about difficulties they encounter in reporting trade issues because of complexities and “sensitive state secrets,” but also the fact that there is often a larger interest in the sports pages than news on what is going on at the WTO. “Global politics won’t sell Kenyan newspapers,” said John Kamau, senior reporter of Sunday Standards in Kenya. Keith Rockwell, director of WTO’s information and media relations division, said that all of the WTO’s meetings are closed but this does not necessarily have to be so, referring to meetings such as trade policy reviews and the General Council, which is the ambassador-level decision-making body. But “no delegation in this house has ever suggested” that some meetings should be open to the public, he said. Tove Gerhardsen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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) Related "Public Forum Debate On WTO’s Future Touches On IP Issues" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.