WTO Members Call For More TRIPS Talks; Director Post May Open Up 14/10/2008 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch 1 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 William New Whether the World Trade Organization director general position will be up for grabs in the new year remains a question, as current DG Pascal Lamy is deciding by December whether to run for the post again. Meanwhile, numerous member governments on Tuesday called for any further trade negotiations at the WTO to include discussion of proposed amendments to international rules on trade and intellectual property rights. And China’s involvement on IP in Geneva institutions continues to grow. At Tuesday’s meeting of the WTO General Council, members were in relative agreement that the global financial crisis adds incentive to the WTO to make progress, but were relatively divided on how to treat the progress from the July ministerial, and whether modalities (parameters) for agriculture and industrial goods negotiations could be reached by year’s end, WTO press secretary Keith Rockwell told reporters. “Failing to deliver in this house on the [Doha] Development Round would mean a big blow not only to the multilateral trading system, but also to the credibility of global governance in general,” Chinese Ambassador Sun Zhenyu told the General Council. Lamy told the Council that “work in the negotiating groups has now resumed in earnest.” Separately, Lamy told the General Council on Tuesday that he had formed a task force within the secretariat to track the impact of the financial crisis on the WTO’s work. During the General Council, many members who spoke offered support for continuing talks related to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). “Draft modality texts as contained in document TN/C/W/52 [pdf available here] have been cosponsored by 110 members, which request the inclusion of TRIPS-related issues as part of the horizontal process,” Sun said. “This issue should be dealt with properly.” Others support for continuation of discussions of TRIPS issues, according to Rockwell, included: India (on its own behalf calling for the 110-member-supported document to be the basis for a negotiation, and urging the director general to continue the process through his office), the European Union, Switzerland, Turkey, Brazil (which urged that the negotiations and process across TRIPS issues “must be intensified”), Costa Rica, and Pakistan. Next TRIPS Council The next TRIPS Council meeting is 28-29 October, with a separate Special Session on 29 October on the mandate to create a multilateral system for notifying and registering geographical indications for wines and spirits, under the Doha Development Agenda. The new chair will take over for the TRIPS Council, as Ambassador Gail Marie Mathurin of Jamaica was called back to her capital in summer to serve in the government. The former Special Session chair, Ambassador Manzoor Ahmad of Pakistan, also returned to capital, so a new chair will be named for that role as well. [Correction: as previously reported in IP-Watch, Ahmad has been appointed the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s representative to international organisations in Geneva.] The new chair of the TRIPS Council is to be Ambassador Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago. The Special Session chair will be Ambassador Trevor Clarke of Barbados, according to sources. Clarke has been coordinator of the small and vulnerable economies group of the WTO Committee on Trade and Development. He also chairs the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Committee on Development and Intellectual Property, and brought the contentious WIPO Development Agenda negotiations to a successful close last year. The TRIPS Council agenda is not yet announced, but is expected to include the annual review of China’s accession in 2001. There may also be issues related to technical assistance and technology transfer, which under TRIPS developed nations are expected to provide. The TRIPS Council agenda typically includes a review of TRIPS Article 27.3(b) on the patenting of life forms, a proposal to amend TRIPS to require disclosure of the origin of genetic resources and related traditional knowledge in patent applications (related to the committee’s examination of the relationship of TRIPS to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity), At some recent past meetings, developed countries raised matters related to enforcement, but have not made progress on the topic in this forum and may not raise it again this month. Process for Selection of Next DG to Begin Meanwhile, under the WTO procedures [pdf, available here]of December 2002 for the appointment of directors-general, the current office of DG Lamy expires on 31 August 2009. The in-office DG must notify to General Council Chair Bruce Gosper before 1 December, 2008 if he is going to seek another term. If the current DG wants to stay, he would be considered a candidate, of which Gosper would notify members. Members would have one month after the start of the appointment process to nominate candidates, that is, from 1 to 31 December. Then candidates will have three months to make themselves known to members to and engage in discussions about WTO matters, i.e., from 1 January to 31 March. A decision will be made on the next DG by 31 May, 2009, and from 31 March until that date members will narrow the field down to one. This was previously done by rounds in which the candidate with the least supporters was asked to withdraw. Voting may occur as a last resort. The DG term of office is four years. China’s Geneva Involvement Grows China continues its integration into Geneva institutions and treaties. Also on Tuesday, WIPO announced that China and Hong Kong have joined the “internet treaties” which were created to extend copyright protections to the internet. China joined the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. China also is involved in a WTO dispute settlement case related to intellectual property rights enforcement brought against it by the United States in which there was an interim report issued last week. Sources say the confidential report shows a mixed outcome so far in the case in which it was claimed that China’s penalties for commercial-scale counterfeiting and piracy do not provide a deterrent. The complaint also argued China is not sufficiently protecting works involved in censorship reviews, and raised concern about auctioning of goods intercepted by the government. The case was filed at the WTO in April 2007 and a dispute panel formed in August 2007 (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 13 August 2008). A Chinese official told Intellectual Property Watch that the government can only state at this time that it has “received the interim report of the panel on IP and shall study it carefully.” William New may be reached at www.ip-watch.ch. 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