WTO

Policy Brief 112, 28 June 2022

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.

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Research Paper 157, 3 June 2022

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.

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Policy Brief 109, 31 March 2022

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.

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SouthViews No. 231, 29 November 2021

Waive IP Rights & Save Lives

By Srividhya Ragavan

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.

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Investment Facilitation for Development: Identifying key policy issues for facilitating responsible, inclusive and resilient investment, 3 December 2021

Session 28: Investment Facilitation for Development: Identifying key policy issues for facilitating responsible, inclusive and resilient investment

Friday, December 3, 2021, 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM CET, Virtual

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.

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WTO Public Forum 2021 Working Session: The Future of the TRIPS Agreement Post COVID-19

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.

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Policy Brief 101, September 2021

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.

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SouthViews No. 225, 21 July 2021

Vaccine Nationalism 

By Prof. Ujal Singh Bhatia

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.

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Research Paper 122, November 2020

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.

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Webinar: Towards Justice in the International Economic Order: Proposals from the South

Webinar: Towards Justice in the International Economic Order: Proposals from the South

This webinar is a collaboration between Afronomicslaw and the South Centre, Geneva, to mark the 25th anniversary of the South Centre. Both the South Centre and Afronomicslaw share a commitment to the protection and promotion of the development interests of countries of the Global South.

The theme of the webinar “Towards Justice in the International Economic Order: Proposals from the South” reflects this shared commitment. In particular, the webinar will focus on selected initiatives proposed by the Global South. An important premise of the webinar presentations will be that the countries of the Global South are not mere spectators in the construction of the global order. Among the issues that the webinar will discuss will be access and a development-oriented approach to the WTO TRIPS Council (including the recent waiver proposal by South Africa and India on TRIPS obligations, and attempts to reframe the e-commerce and IP agenda). It will also reflect on the soon to be launched African Sovereign Debt Justice Network (AfSDJN), relating to issues of sovereign debt that have become particularly germane in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Book by the South Centre, 2020

WTO reform and the crisis of multilateralism – A Developing Country Perspective

About the Book:

The WTO has not been able to recover since the collapse of the Doha Round in July 2008. Several ministerial conferences including the Buenos Aires meeting in December 2017 failed to reach agreement. The US Trump Administration launched a campaign to reform the WTO in 2018 and 2019. This book argues that the Trump Administration reform proposals have been much more aggressive and far-reaching than the Obama Administration before it, threatening to erode hard-won special and differential treatment rights of developing countries. By blocking the appointment of new Appellate Body members, the US has effectively paralysed the Appellate Body and deepened the crisis of the multilateral trading system. Developing countries have responded to the proposals and called for the WTO to be development-oriented and inclusive. This book provides a critical analysis of the US-led reform proposals and seeks to build a discourse around an alternative set of concepts or principles to guide the multilateral trading system based on fairness, solidarity, social justice, inclusiveness and sustainability.

Author: Faizel Ismail served as the Ambassador Permanent Representative of South Africa to the WTO (2010-2014).

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Policy Brief 77, May 2020

COVID-19 and WTO: Debunking Developed Countries’ Narratives on Trade Measures

By Aileen Kwa, Fernando Rosales and Peter Lunenborg

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, developing countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are faced with demands to i) permanently liberalize their markets in health products, and also in agriculture; ii) ban export restrictions in agriculture; and iii) conclude new digital trade rules including liberalizing online payment systems, and agreeing to free data flows. There seems to be a confusion between short-term and long-term responses. For the short-term, governments must take measures needed to address the crisis, including liberalizing needed health products. However, permanently bringing tariffs to zero for the health and agricultural sectors will not support developing countries to build domestic industries. Export restrictions in agriculture cannot be given up. They can be a very important tool for stabilizing domestic prices and for food security. New digital trade rules at the WTO would foreclose the possibility for countries to impose data sovereignty regulations, including data localization requirements that can support their infant digital platforms and industries.

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