Publications

SouthViews No. 267, 20 June 2024

The India-EFTA Deal: A New Model for Developing Countries?

By Danish

Governments are shifting from investor-state dispute mechanisms to treaties that encourage and ease investment. The India-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement could be setting a new standard for developing countries to promote and benefit from foreign investment.

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SouthViews No. 266, 19 June 2024

Knocking Down Business-related Human Rights Abuses with a Feather: Is the European Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive Sufficient to Tackle Corporate Impunity?

By Daniel Uribe

In April 2024, the European Parliament approved the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), aiming to ensure that European firms and their partners uphold human rights and environmental standards in their supply chains. This Directive applies to large EU and non-EU companies, with a phased implementation starting in 2027. The CSDDD mandates the integration of due diligence in corporate policies and the development of transition plans aligned with the Paris Agreement. Despite these advancements, the Directive’s scope and civil liability provisions are limited to effectively hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses. The ongoing negotiations on an International Legally Binding Instrument on Business and Human Rights offer an opportunity to adopt common standards on due diligence and jurisdiction to improve access to justice and remedies for victims of corporate-related abuses.

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South Centre Report, June 2024

Unveiling the Controversies: ICTs in Agriculture and the Challenges for Africa

By Ruthbetha Kateule and Thaura Ghneim-Herrera

The integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in African agriculture presents both significant opportunities and challenges. While ICTs can enhance efficiency and productivity, addressing the digital divide and structural inequalities is crucial for their effective implementation. It is imperative to incorporate local knowledge and address region-specific challenges to ensure that these technologies are accessible and beneficial to all, particularly in rural and underserved areas. Moving forward, a balanced approach that focuses on sustainable development, equitable access, and environmental stewardship will be key to realizing the full potential of smart agriculture in Africa and the Global South.

This paper presents a summary of a research conducted with the support of the Montpellier Advanced Knowledge Institute on Transitions (MAK’IT) of the University of Montpellier, within the framework of the 2024 COHORT programme, and the cooperation of the South Centre.

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Research Paper 199, 10 June 2024

A Toss Up? Comparing Tax Revenues from the Amount A and Digital Service Tax Regimes for Developing Countries

By Vladimir Starkov and Alexis Jin

In this paper, we attempt to estimate the tax revenues to be gained by the Member States of ATAF, WATAF, AU and the South Centre under the Amount A and an alternative stylized DST taxation regime. Our research demonstrates that the comparative revenue effects of the Amount A and DST taxation regimes largely depend on (a) the mix of relevant domestic economic activities at market jurisdictions (i.e., revenues sourced to the country as a market jurisdiction under Amount A and the level of revenues from automated digital services generated in the country), (b) design details of the DST regime such as the DST tax rate and the nature of activities to be taxed and (c) the relief from double taxation, if any, countries will grant to domestic and foreign taxpayers under DST. This paper contains analysis relying on sources of information available to private sector researchers and it does not involve review of any information that individual taxpayers provided to tax authorities.

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SouthViews No. 265, 31 May 2024

On the Forty-eighth Session of UNCITRAL Working Group III

By Jose Manuel Alvarez Zarate

The forty-eighth session of UNCITRAL Working Group III (WGIII) on Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) reform was held in New York from April 1-5, 2024. The WGIII made significant progress in various reform areas. The European Union’s proposal for a permanent Multilateral Investment Court is advancing, albeit with mixed support. A Code of Conduct, developed with ICSID and adopted in 2023, remains contentious. Likewise, discussions focused on the draft statute for an Advisory Centre on International Investment Dispute Settlement, revised guidelines for dispute prevention, and a draft statute for a Permanent Mechanism for ISDS. Despite progress, core criticisms of the ISDS system—transparency, balance of rights, and rule clarity—remain inadequately addressed. This document considers some of the progress made and the need to provide more time for discussions on procedural and cross-cutting issues, which are crucial for developing countries to achieve balanced and inclusive outcomes.

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Research Paper 198, 31 May 2024

What Can Cambodia Learn from Thailand and India as It Prepares to Graduate from Least Developed Country Status?

By Brigitte Tenni, Deborah Gleeson, Joel Lexchin, Phin Sovath, and Chalermsak Kittitrakul

Cambodia is expected to graduate from Least Developed Country status soon, at which time it will be required to make patents available for pharmaceutical products and processes to meet its obligations under the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Given its impending transition from LDC status, there is a need to balance Cambodia’s intellectual property (IP) policies and regulations with public health priorities to ensure access to affordable life-saving medicines. This will be critical to achieving universal health coverage, one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This paper examines Cambodia’s IP laws and regulations to identify provisions that could reduce access to affordable generic medicines when it starts granting patents for pharmaceuticals. It systematically compares Cambodia’s IP laws and regulations with those of Thailand and India – two developing countries that have had some successes in preserving access to medicines despite the introduction of pharmaceutical patents. It identifies lessons for Cambodia from the experiences of Thailand and India in implementing TRIPS and using TRIPS flexibilities such as compulsory licensing to ensure access to a sustainable supply of affordable generic medicines. Key recommendations for reform for Cambodia include strengthening the use of preventive and remedial TRIPS flexibilities and removing criminal sanctions for patent infringements. Cambodia should reject any TRIPS-plus provisions in its patent legislation and avoid membership in bilateral or plurilateral trade agreements that include TRIPS-plus provisions as well as signing patent treaties and memorandums of understanding  that may facilitate the granting of unwarranted patents.

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Research Paper 197, 28 May 2024

Compulsory Licensing as a Remedy Against Excessive Pricing of Life-Saving Medicines  

By Behrang Kianzad

The COVID-19 crisis intensified decade-long debates on the interaction between intellectual property rights (IPRs), competition law and access to affordable life-saving treatments and vaccines. Compulsory licensing of patented medicines is a tried-and-tested method to expand access, particularly in a situation of “national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency” within the meaning of Article 31(b) of the TRIPS Agreement. Some legislations, such as European competition law, offer a toolbox for curbing the exercise of IPRs if they would be found in conflict with certain competition rules, such as rules prohibiting excessive pricing by dominant undertakings. The paper analyses the interface between intellectual property law and competition law in general, moving on to the settled case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on this matter. It provides a general overview of legal and economics arguments related to excessive pricing prohibition and the main case law of European competition law on the matter and discusses whether compulsory licensing as a remedy against excessive pricing of patented life-saving pharmaceutical products can be a viable and appropriate remedy. Finally, the paper offers policy recommendations relating to compulsory licensing based on excessive pricing.

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Policy Brief 130, 21 May 2024

Unpacking the WTO MC13 Decision on the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce

By Vahini Naidu

The 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) adopted a decision that marks a pivotal shift in the operational framework of the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce (WPEC) of the organisation. This Policy Brief examines how this Decision can enhance the trajectory of the e-commerce discourse within the WTO, elaborates on its implications and makes recommendations aimed at facilitating developing countries’ engagement in the WPEC.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief No. 38, 15 May 2024

The Design of a UN Framework Convention on International Tax Cooperation

By Sol Picciotto

The creation of a UN-led framework for international tax cooperation is an opportunity for an institutional and conceptual reset, to re-establish a global perspective that has been disrupted by the assumption of an increasingly dominant role in international tax by the OECD. The OECD’s expansive proselytisation of its approach, aiming to encourage foreign investment by restricting taxation of income at source where it derives, has paradoxically taken place in counterpoint with growing concerns about the evident dysfunctionality of that approach. The current process should learn from the past to design a global framework fit for the future, by embodying the aims and general principles that have come to be recognised especially in the recent period as essential guideposts for effective international tax reform.

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SouthViews No. 264, 10 May 2024

Understanding the Interconnected Threats to Global Sustainability: A Focus on Deforestation, Traditional Knowledge, and Biopiracy

By Marissa Costa De Castro

This paper examines the interconnected threats of climate change, deforestation, misappropriation of traditional knowledge (TK), and the detrimental phenomenon of biopiracy. It discusses the profound impacts of deforestation on climate change, with an illustrative case study centered on Brazil’s Matopiba region. Additionally, it investigates the intricate relationship between TK, land grabbing, and biopiracy within indigenous and local communities.

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Policy Brief 129, 7 May 2024

The WIPO Diplomatic Conference for a Treaty on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge

By Viviana Muñoz Tellez

A new international legal instrument is set to be concluded under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in May 2024. Its legal nature should be that of an international treaty, given that a Diplomatic Conference, the last treaty making stage, will be held for its conclusion. The purpose of the instrument (hereinafter “the Treaty”) is to create an international minimum standard for patent applicants to provide information concerning the origin or source of the genetic resources or traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources as part of the patent application process. This Policy Brief provides an overview of the rationale for the Treaty and of the process and substantive issues to be negotiated, and advances recommendations towards ensuring a successful conclusion of the Diplomatic Conference.

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SouthViews No. 263, 1 May 2024

The Protection of Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions, Expressions of Folklore and Genetic Resources Within the African Continental Free Trade Area – Alignment with International and Regional Developments  

By Caroline B. Ncube

The adoption of the Protocol on Intellectual Property Rights under the Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area presents an opportune moment to consider a continental framework for the protection of Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions, Expressions of Folklore and Genetic Resources. This SouthViews considers lessons which can be drawn from national laws, using South Africa as an example, for the relevant Annex to be negotiated under the protocol.

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