Buenos Aires Ministerial Not The End Of The Road, WTO Director Tells Reporters28/11/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.The road to the World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, starting in a couple of weeks does not seem to be a walk in the park, as they say. WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo, in a press briefing today [27 November], explained what can be expected from the 11th ministerial conference. He said consensus is escaping many issues, but Buenos Aires is not the end of the road, but rather one more step in the direction of trade liberalisation. WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo speaks to reportersAzevêdo underlined the good results harvested by the WTO in 2017, with two major agreements: the Trade Facilitation Agreement, adopted at the Bali WTO ministerial conference in 2013, and which entered into force on 22 February 2017; and entry into effect of the health amendment to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 23 January 2017). Those achievements show the commitment of members, he said.The world economy is still recovering in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, and the lingering effects of the crisis might bring feelings of discontent and disconnection still felt by some at the ministerial conference, he said. The situation of the world economy, however, would be worse without the WTO, he said.Buenos Aires not the End of the Road“The organisation cannot be held hostage of its own success,” Azevêdo said, hinting that after two successful ministerial conferences, in Bali and in Nairobi, the WTO cannot be expected to deliver the same results this year, at the 11th ministerial conference.Yet there is potential in some areas for delivering results, he said, citing for example agriculture, and in particular the public stock-holding for food security reasons, proposals on domestic support, and export restrictions. He also cited the fishery subsidies conversation.However, in other areas, he said, the outcome possibilities are slimmer, but there is some momentum and some initiatives, for example on domestic regulation in services.There are a number of things on the table, he said, but no convergence yet on any of them. “Whatever happens in Buenos Aires,” it is not the end of the road, he said, it is just one more step in the direction of trade liberalisation, the improvement of the system, and the multilateral discipline, he added.Buenos Aires is a good opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved, to “harvest the things that we can at that point in time,” and prepare for the conversation after Buenos Aires, he said.Buenos Aires is going to be an important landmark for the WTO, he said, adding that conditions are not perfect, but that they never are.United States and the WTOAnswering a question about the attitude of the United States and global trade, Azevêdo said the US has “made quite clear so far that it has misgivings about the way the multilateral system has been delivering and functioning.”“That is their perspective, and other members have other perspectives,” he said.The US is less active than they were before in the WTO, less positive, but they are sitting down, talking to members and discussing, he said.Non-Violation Complaints, E-CommerceNon-violation complaints allow a member country to take another member country to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body even if no WTO agreement has been violated, on allegations of deprivation of an expected benefit because of that country’s action.The WTO TRIPS Council has been trying to agree on what to do about the current moratorium which shields intellectual property from non-violation complaints. Most WTO members would like to extend the moratorium indefinitely, while two member states, the US and Switzerland, would like to lift it (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 20 October 2017).On non-violation complaints, Azevêdo said the conversation is ongoing. The moratorium on duties on electronic transmissions has been “somehow” linked to the issue of the moratorium on non-violation complaints. “It would be regrettable if we could not extend those [moratoriums].” But a closer look at the practical impact of the decision to extend the moratoriums or not to extend them would be needed, he said.The subject of electronic commerce is as prickly. Some countries are pushing for a new work programme on e-commerce at the WTO, while a number of developing countries are saying the current programme, adopted in September 1998, is still adequate (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 29 September 2017).Azevêdo described the two tracks on e-commerce. Some members are seeking to extend the work under the 1998 work programme, while others feel that the current programme is suitable enough, he said. “We have to see how those conversations evolve or not evolve in Buenos Aires,” he said.Some members would like to address the issue of e-commerce in a plurilateral format, he said, and what happens in Buenos Aires is entirely at the discretion of those members. Azevêdo said he hopes for a multilateral outcome, but it is too early to tell, he added.Appellate Body Stall, Unavoidable ConsequencesOn a question about the consequences of the current standstill in the election of judges of the WTO Appellate Body (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 22 November 2017), Azevêdo said the standstill, should it persist, would clearly have an impact on the WTO Dispute Settlement Body activity. The situation is already affecting the speed at which the Appellate Body procedures can be conducted, he said, and if the situation is prolonged it will have a greater impact. Members are having conversation about what to do and are “floating ideas,” he said. Image Credits: Catherine SaezShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)RelatedCatherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Buenos Aires Ministerial Not The End Of The Road, WTO Director Tells Reporters" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.