WTO IP Discussion In Question With Possible Ministerial On Horizon 28/11/2008 by Kaitlin Mara 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 Kaitlin Mara Delegates are buckling down on key negotiating issues in the final days they have to decide whether or not there can be a high-level meeting of government ministers in December, and intellectual property-related issues appear still to be at an impasse with another IP meeting scheduled for Monday. While negotiations on agriculture and non-agricultural market access have continued to dominate discussions in the past few weeks – and while progress in those two areas will be the determining factor in whether or not the WTO brings decision-making ministers to Geneva in December – IP issues resurfaced as a sticky area of discussion last week when proponents of parallelism between three IP areas insisted Director General Pascal Lamy find a way forward on the issues (IPW, WTO, 21 November 2008). The IP issues are related to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). But others not interested in including the TRIPS issues in the ongoing wider negotiations have remained steadfast in their opposition this week, according to sources, expressing at the highest levels that IP issues should not be a part of a ministerial if it happens. The opponents represent a minority of WTO members, while a sizeable majority have demanded the issues’ inclusion. The three IP issues are: the creation of a multilateral register for geographical indications (or GIs, product names associated with a place and characteristics) on wines and spirits, for which there is a mandate to negotiate within the Doha round of trade liberalisation talks in a series of meetings called the “special sessions”; the possibility of extending high-level protection on GIs for wines and spirits to other goods, such as Parma ham (Italy); and a proposal to amend the TRIPS agreement to contain measures to protect biodiversity. The latter two issues are considered “outstanding implementation issues” – meaning that there’s been no specific mandate to negotiate them but that member states should take up talks on such issues as a “matter of priority by the relevant WTO bodies.” A strategic alliance of 110 countries – including Brazil, the European Union, India, Peru, and Switzerland – banded together and produced in July a document linking the three IP issues, arguing they should be negotiated at the same time, and presenting a set of substantive and procedural suggestions for moving forward with such negotiations. This group has continuously restated the importance of these three TRIPS issues as a part of the ongoing Doha round of free-trade negotiations at the WTO. They further emphasise that they represent a significant portion of the WTO’s 153 member states, and more importantly that the July document represents a compromise negotiating text of member states which did not originally agree, and as such represents a serious achievement to which attention must be paid. Parallelism Opponents Meet Lamy But the separate group of member states takes the view that to negotiate on GI extension or the TRIPS biodiversity amendment would represent a significant change in mandate for an already delicate Doha round. This group – which includes Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, and the United States – met with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy this week in order to “reinforce the view that the three TRIPS issues have different merits and mandates and it is not appropriate to deal with them together,” according to a member of the group. This group is referred to as the “joint proposal” group, as they are supporters of a separate and earlier document that only discusses the GI register. Lamy at this meeting told the joint proposal states that it was not his role to change mandates, one source told Intellectual Property Watch. A separate source from the joint proposal group said that the director general added that if there is a ministerial in December, and if the 110 countries bring up the TRIPS issues, it would be handled in a similar fashion to the last ministerial meeting in July. That process involved the DG appointing a “friend” to chair informal negotiations between key stakeholders to try and reach consensus. Special Sessions Meeting Monday An informal meeting of the WTO body tasked with working on the GI register issue is planned for Monday afternoon, according to a WTO official. The meeting was originally scheduled for last Tuesday, but was delayed. This meeting, according to the WTO official, is intended to brief member states on individual consultations that Special Sessions Chair Trevor Clarke has had on the GI register since the last formal meeting on 29 October. The special sessions are only mandated to deal with the GI register and Clarke told Intellectual Property Watch at the end of the last formal special session that he intended to focus his work on his mandate. But members of the 110 states who favour parallelism have said that the GI register must be dealt with in tandem with the other two IP issues. That view was raised and discussed on 29 October (IPW, WTO, 30 October 2008), in the formal session and is likely to come up again at Monday’s informal meeting. Members of the joint proposal group are hoping it does not. One member said: “technical work still needs to be done on the GI register, and we would like to do that and have it move forward.” Kaitlin Mara may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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