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.
Investment facilitation policies can support States’ efforts to achieve sustainable development, but they cannot be considered in isolation. This session will raise some considerations on the Structured Discussion on Investment Facilitation discussion in the WTO and bring additional perspectives on the need to safeguard the right of countries to adopt the necessary measures to articulate and apply policies designed to achieve inclusive, equitable, fair and sustainable development and enabling and advancing sustainable investments that add value to the developmental process of host States.
Working Session at the WTO Public Forum 2021: The Future of the TRIPS Agreement Post COVID-19
Wednesday, 29 September 2021
16h30 –17h30 CET
Disciplines on intellectual property protection are part of the multilateral trade system through the WTO TRIPS Agreement. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to bear again the tension between the protection of intellectual property rights and public health, which had been addressed in 2001 through the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public health. Having in view the TRIPS flexibilities, this session will discuss the role of interpretation, temporary waivers and amendments in dealing with such tension and what further actions could be taken under the WTO rules in order to promote access to medical products for all.
The Investment Facilitation Framework & Most Favoured Nation (MFN) Treatment
By Peter Lunenborg
The issue of Investment Facilitation (IF) is one of the ‘Joint Statement Initiatives’ which has been under negotiation for a number of years between certain World Trade Organization (WTO) Members. It has not been without controversy as there is no multilateral mandate at the WTO for these negotiations. Questions have been raised about how the outcomes of these IF negotiations can be brought into the WTO framework. Despite these uncertainties, there is a draft Investment Facilitation Framework (IFF) text. This Policy Brief discusses the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment as contained in Article 2 of the Investment Facilitation Framework (IFF), also referred to as the Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement (IFDA). This brief highlights the potential implications of the proposed text and proposes some options.
The author posits that the global public health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic along with the economic and distributional aspects of vaccines and treatments, involves a market failure without the underlying institutional safety nets for an effective, globally coordinated response. He proposes strong, self-standing institutions with clear mandates and resources to make effective interventions at three levels: political, financial and regulatory. Also, the WTO rules regarding export restrictions are at present too accommodative to allow for a quick response. For Intellectual Property, both manufacturing and licensing, and relaxation of IP rules should be considered.
Analysis of the Overcapacity and Overfishing Pillar of the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Negotiations
By Peter Lunenborg
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6 asks World Trade Organization (WTO) Members to “prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing”. Hence, the pillar on overcapacity and overfishing (O&O) is the most important pillar of the fisheries subsidies negotiations. However, WTO Members have not yet agreed on the approach to prohibition. This research paper distinguishes three types of approaches: the fisheries management linked approach (sometimes referred to as effects-based approach), capping and list-based approach.
This paper argues that the core of the prohibition in the Overfishing and Overcapacity pillar should be list-based and be applicable to large scale fisheries who receive the bulk of global fisheries subsidies especially those that are capacity-enhancing. For subsidies which are not prohibited an effects-based test might be considered. A supplementary subsidy prohibition covering areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) could be considered, or the vessels or operations targeted by proponents of the ABNJ proposals could be deemed ‘large scale’. If capping remains on the table, capping subsidies per fisher could be explored. Special and Differential Treatment should be an integral element of the outcome as developing countries whose fisheries sector are less developed should not take on the same commitments.