This Policy Brief discusses issues concerning trade, intellectual property, and technology transfer that are most relevant for consideration at the 13th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024 and inclusion in its outcomes.
The following recommendations are proposed:
TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints: MC13 Decision on the scope and modalities of non-violation and situation complaints under the Agreement on Trade related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A second option is to extend the moratorium.
TRIPS, diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19: MC13 Decision that extends the MC12 TRIPS waiver Decision (only applicable to vaccines) to diagnostics and therapeutics
Relationship between TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity: to be addressed in the MC13 Outcome Document
Follow up to the MC12 Declaration on the WTO Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics: to be addressed in the MC13 Outcome Document
Relationship of trade and technology transfer: include in the MC13 Outcome Document to reinvigorate and give direction to the Working Group on Trade and Technology Transfer (WGTTT) and increase attention in all relevant bodies on how the WTO can promote technology transfer
How the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism discriminates against foreign producers
By Peter Lunenborg and Vahini Naidu
In April 2023, the European Parliament adopted the final text of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) and revisions to the European Union (EU) Emissions Trading System (ETS). One of the stated objectives of CBAM is to create a level playing field for selected sectors in the EU market and to protect against the risk of ‘carbon leakage’. Based on an analysis and comparison between the legal texts of CBAM and ETS, this paper finds that CBAM discriminates against foreign producers in favour of EU domestic producers in many areas including with regard to the scope and type of emissions covered, free allocation of allowances, exemptions under EU ETS not mirrored in CBAM, buying and selling of ETS allowances in comparison with CBAM certificates, verification, penalties, authorization, use of credits from the Carbon Development Mechanism (CDM) and guarantees.
The paper also provides a brief overview of how the CBAM and ETS align with WTO rules, highlighting the potential discrepancies in the implementation as they apply to foreign and EU producers respectively. The paper provides several suggestions on how to make EU’s CBAM more WTO-compatible and a recommendation for further legal research.
U-turn by the U.S. Trade Representative to rein in the Big Tech Digital Trade Agenda
15 November 2023
The landmark shift by the U.S. Trade Rrepresentative to set aside four proposals to ensure “policy space” for the U.S. is a welcomed development under the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) negotiations on E-commerce on the side lines of the WTO. This decision validates the positions taken by governments in the Global South for the last seven years. There remain several provisions in the negotiating text that will be detrimental to the development of domestic digital industries in developing countries.
Least Developed Countries and Their Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals
By Peter Lunenborg
This Research Paper reviews Least Developed Countries’ (LDCs) collective progress on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on the available data on the indicators for the 169 SDG targets. It makes recommendations for LDCs and other States to consider advancing in relevant UN processes as well as the WTO’s.
LDCs made progress on 28% of the SDGs. This collective progress shows that these countries are far from achieving what were deemed achievable goals in 2015. With respect to trade-related SDGs, LDCs have not made progress on any of the five trade-related SDGs that mention LDCs specifically.
This paper does not delve into the causes of this gap, but it suggests that international cooperation and, particularly, the developed countries’ assistance, has been insufficient to address the needs of a large part of the world population that still lives in poverty and without hope of a better future. However, the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA), a development framework with targets specifically for LDCs -which overlap with SDG targets- appears to dilute several original SDG targets, in particular those in SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
Policy Dilemmas for ASEAN Developing Countries Arising from the Tariff Moratorium on Electronically Transmitted Goods
By Manuel F. Montes and Peter Lunenborg
This paper examines the policy dilemmas facing developing countries in ASEAN in working within, and participating in, international negotiations toward making permanent the WTO tariff moratorium on duties applicable to electronically transmitted goods. In the context of ASEAN’s countries’ trade-oriented development strategies, the analysis considers the moratorium’s impact on tariff revenues, economic performance, and industrial development prospects. The paper presents estimates of tariff impacts and studies the national policy implications of the moratorium. An extension of the moratorium would establish a special regime for a class of goods whose components are contentiously defined but with a potential of being an important source of tariff revenue and of having an impact on industrial development in the future for developing ASEAN countries. This special regime for electronically transmitted goods cannot be justified as a global public good and is unnecessary. The removal of the regime would restore national space in developing ASEAN countries and allow them to obtain tariff revenues from the trade of these goods and to upgrade domestic capabilities in participating in the digital economy.
The WTO faces an existential crisis, despite a reasonable outcome at the Twelfth Ministerial Conference. The one way by which the WTO can resuscitate itself is to make sure that the negotiating agenda is anchored in the SDGs rather than in the narrow interests of its most powerful members. The changing role of the State must also be factored in by the WTO.
Policy responses for fostering South-South and Triangular Cooperation in response to the food crisis in the area of trade
By Peter Lunenborg
The Russia-Ukraine conflict since 24 February 2022 and the various sanctions imposed on Russia are having tremendous global repercussions, including on developing countries. This world is already experiencing multiple crises such as COVID-19 and measures in response to the virus including lockdowns, money printing and increases in government debts, conflicts and tensions in other parts of the world as well as climate change and extreme weather events such as extreme flooding or droughts. The conflict is compounding and aggravating these shocks.
In the short to medium term, prices in particular for energy (oil, gas), derived products (fertilizers) and food (in particular cereals) will remain elevated. Availability might also suffer. As a result, food insecurity is and will remain a serious concern in the near and medium term. Policy actions are required to mitigate any potential famine(s) which may arise and to build resilience for the future.
This paper explores concrete options for developing countries to address food insecurity in the short, medium and long term, including purchase policies, better implementation of WTO rules and increase in domestic investment in wheat and fertilizers production.
WTO Public Forum 2022 Working Session: Mainstreaming Development in the WTO
30 September 2022
WTO Room E
Time: 11:30-12:45 CEST
The Global South has a fundamental interest in the WTO. In framing the future of trade, reforming and strengthening the organisation requires mainstreaming development in the WTO. The primary question is how to ensure that the broader development dimension of the multilateral trading system is advanced and not simply relegated to polarising conversations about special and differential treatment. This session explores ways in which the multilateral trading system can meaningfully address the needs of developing countries including LDCs. These include assessing different approaches to build greater equity in the trading regime, considering ways to improve the capacity for developing countries to benefit from trade, establishing a deeper role and voice for developing countries including LDCs in developing balanced trade rules, and examining how they can exercise their right to fully participate in the consensus-based decision-making processes of the WTO.
IPR-related Statistics in WTO Trade Policy Reviews
By Peter Lunenborg
The WTO Secretariat Trade Policy Review (TPR) report is an important tool for a WTO Member which synthesizes objective trade-related information in a single document and enables the monitoring of developments in trade. Relevant statistics are therefore an important element of a TPR report.
Currently the practice of using statistical information on intellectual property rights (IPRs) across TPRs is not uniform. This Policy Brief surveys the use of IPR-related statistics in WTO TPRs with a view to exploring possible harmonization and inclusion of common information elements in future TPRs. Harmonized information would provide a baseline for comparison between countries and across time for a single country with respect to the level of IPR protection and immediate benefits derived from the creation of and trade in IPRs.
WTO Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions: How much tariff revenue have developing countries lost?
By Rashmi Banga
This research paper highlights the adverse impacts of the continuing WTO moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions on the developing and least developed countries. The rapidly progressing digitalization along with the ongoing pandemic and the food crisis are creating multiple demands on the government revenues. However, because of the moratorium almost all developing, and least developed countries are losing tariff revenues especially at the time when they are most needed. Not only are they losing the fiscal space but are also losing their regulatory space as they are unable to regulate the growing imports of digitizable products, especially of luxury items like the movies, music and video games. It is estimated that in the period 2017-2020, developing countries and LDCs lost $56 billion of tariff revenue, of which $48 billion were lost by the developing countries and $8 billion by the least developed countries. It is interesting to note that this loss of tariff revenue is from the imports of just 49 products (at HS six-digit). With no clarity on the definition of electronic transmissions (ET) and thereby on the scope of the moratorium, the continuation of the WTO moratorium on customs duties on ET can lead to substantive tariff revenue losses for developing and least developed countries in the future.
Draft Fisheries Subsidies Agreement: some key issues to address for a sustainable catch
By Peter Lunenborg
This Policy Brief reviews the draft Chair’s text for a Fisheries Subsidies Agreement (WT/MIN(21)/W/5). Pursuant to Sustainable Development Goal 14.6, any agreement must effectively discipline fisheries subsidies especially of larger scale fisheries and distant water fishing fleets and must cater to the needs of developing countries including in the form of effective Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT).
This Brief highlights several provisions of the text which would need to be improved to reach its mandated objectives. These provisions include the fisheries management flexibilities in Article 4.3 and Article 5.1.1 which would result in the continuation of fisheries subsidies; provisions on subsidies to fishing in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), subsidies to vessels not flying the flag of the subsidizing Member and non-specific fuel subsidies; due process requirements for determinations of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by coastal Members; treatment of subsidies to finance companies; the proposal purported to address forced labour; treatment of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations/Arrangements (RFMO/As) in the text; the relationship between the future Agreement and the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) including their Committees; and the Agreement’s S&DT provisions.
In October of 2020, when India and South Africa proposed a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement, it was meant to increase local manufacturing capacity in these countries. The waiver was proposed as a tool to kick-start prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. While there is an imminent need to meet a growing supply-demand gap for all medical products, COVID-19 related products are urgently required in poorer nations to contain the pandemic. The waiver has an additional role to play in the larger trade schema. In enabling vaccination of populations across the globe, the waiver would be critical to normalize global trade. The paper below captures the benefits of the waiver and compares it with the existing flexibilities under the trade regime, being compulsory licensing.