In Focus

Research Paper 92, March 2019

Notification and Transparency Issues in the WTO and the US’ November 2018 Communication

Various WTO Members submitted a Communication to the WTO in November 2018 which, if accepted, would affect the implementation of Members’ transparency and notification obligations at the WTO. It would strengthen the already burdensome notification obligations and introduce new punitive administrative measures should obligations not be complied with. This paper provides information about WTO Members’ current notification obligations and their level of compliance; looks at the history of discussions on notifications, particularly in the Working Group on Notification Obligations and Procedures which took place in  1995 – 1996; and provides an analysis of the Communication. The analysis focuses on the extent to which the elements are consistent with or go beyond the current WTO disciplines. It concludes that non-compliance with notification obligations is real. However, rather than expanding obligations and introducing punitive measures, constructive and effective solutions should be based on nuancing of obligations in the context of a Special and Differential Treatment approach and through the use of incentives. It also acknowledges that countries with a chronic lack of capacities will continue to struggle with the WTO’s complex notification obligations and requirements until they attain higher levels of development and, thus, improved institutional capacities.

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Investment Policy Brief 15, March 2019

UNCITRAL Working Group III: Can Reforming Procedures Rebalance Investor Rights and Obligations?

The work of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) provides an opportunity to rebalance the international investment regime – but only if the full gamut of key issues are identified. Requiring investors to uphold standards of responsible business conduct (RBC) is largely a function of substantive rights and obligations, but it also presents procedural dimensions that fall within the purview of the UNCITRAL process. This policy brief explores the issues and discusses possible options for reform.

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Policy Brief 58, March 2019

Why the US Proposals on Development will Affect all Developing Countries and Undermine WTO

US submitted two highly problematic proposals to the WTO in January and February 2019, undermining the place of Special and Differential Treatment (S&D) for developing countries at the WTO. In the first paper (WT/GC/757), US criticises the practice of self-declared development status by developing countries arguing that the North-South construct no longer makes sense due to “great development strides”. The second paper (WT/GC/764) – a proposed Decision for the General Council – provides a way to operationalise what was in the first paper. It gave criteria that would exclude 34 Members or 53.6 percent of global population from S&D treatment in “current and future WTO negotiations”. This fundamentally changes S&D from an unconditional right for all developing countries to a concession that may or may not be provided. Even for those developing countries that are not part of the 34 excluded Members, the US notes that in sector-specific negotiations, other Members could also be “ineligible for special and differential treatment.” This paper critiques the US approach on Special and Differential Treatment and concludes that these papers by the US cannot be the basis for any further discussions. All developing countries must be able to decide the pace of their adjustment to trade rules.

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Investment Policy Brief 14, March 2019

Building a Mirage: The Effectiveness of Tax Carve-out Provisions in International Investment Agreements

The present policy brief analyses the language of taxation carve-out provisions incorporated in International Investment Agreements (IIAs), and its effectiveness with regards to restricting the protection and dispute settlement provisions of IIAs only to non-tax-related claims. It illustrates that even in cases where such carve-out provisions have been incorporated into IIAs, the broad language and lack of clarity in the drafting of such provisions have effectively allowed Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tribunals to scrutinize tax measures adopted by States, and even determine that such measures resulted in a breach of State’s obligations under the agreement. It makes recommendations on how States could effectively implement such carve-outs when negotiating, reforming or drafting new international investment agreements.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 7, February 2019

Developing Countries and the Contemporary International Tax System: BEPS and other issues

This policy brief addresses the design of international taxation and tax cooperation in the context of issues presented in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/Group of Twenty (G20) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS)Project. It further considers their significance for developing countries and provides the Brazilian approach to those issues. The brief concludes by exploring the importance of regional cooperation vis-à-vis international organizations and highlights relevant considerations for developing countries engaging with the contemporary international tax system.

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Research Paper 91, February 2019

Key Issues for BAPA+40: South-South Cooperation and the BAPA+40 Subthemes

Developing countries today face multiple interlinked macroeconomic, financial, climate, and development challenges. South-South cooperation is an important element for developing countries to meet these challenges individually and collectively, and in multilateral North-South dialogue and global governance. The overall theme of the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation (40 years after the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promotion and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries/BAPA+40) is the “Role of South-South cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: challenges and opportunities”, with sub-themes. This  research paper will present some concepts relating to South-South cooperation that have been developed by the South and the United Nations system, and looks at some issues that would be relevant to discussions that may be undertaken with respect to Subthemes (i) “Comparative advantages and opportunities of South-South cooperation”; (ii) “Challenges and the strengthening of the institutional framework of South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation”;  and (iv) “Scaling up the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in support of South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation”. It concludes by providing recommendations for the consideration of developing countries in response to the various subthemes, as inputs to support the active engagement by developing countries in the negotiations for the BAPA+40 outcome document.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 6, January 2019

Illicit Financial Flows: Conceptual and Practical Issues

The issue of illicit financial flows (IFFs) is of great significance for many countries looking to mobilize domestic resources for achieving their development goals. The High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, led by H.E. Thabo Mbeki, brought the issue into the global spotlight, notably since the release of exposés like the ‘Panama Papers’. This policy brief elaborates on the conceptual underpinnings of IFFs, its sources and the development costs they generate. Building on the report of the High Level Panel, it provides recommendations to stem IFFs from developing countries.

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Policy Brief 57, January 2019

Will the Amendment to the TRIPS Agreement Enhance Access to Medicines?

An amendment to the TRIPS Agreement by incorporation of the text of the decision of the WTO General Council on 30 August 2003 (as article 31bis) has been made in response to the problem identified in paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. This paragraph sought a solution to situations where patented pharmaceuticals which are not available in a country with no or insufficient manufacturing capacity can be supplied by a foreign provider. As originally adopted, the TRIPS Agreement did not allow the grant of compulsory licenses for exports only, thereby preventing generic manufacturers from exporting the required products to countries unable to produce them. While the new article 31bis is a step forward as it reflects public health concerns, it would be necessary to streamline the procedures to effectively ensure broader access to pharmaceutical products at low cost and in a timely manner.

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South Centre Quarterly Report, October-December 2018

South Centre Quarterly Report, 1 October to 31 December 2018

This report summarizes the programmatic activities of the South Centre during the period 1st October to 31 December 2018. It is intended to provide information, organized by Program and themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the South Centre’s Work Program and publications made and meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or to provide analytical support for international negotiations taking place in various fora. It also informs about external conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated.

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