Publications

Research Paper 94, April 2019

Tax Haven Listing in Multiple Hues: Blind, Winking or Conniving?

Tax havens are among the biggest challenges faced by developing countries in achieving their national development goals. States, international organisations, multilateral agencies and non-governmental organisations have all made several efforts at compiling ‘lists’ of tax havens at the multilateral and national levels, with varying levels of seriousness and outcomes. This research paper examines these efforts by analysing the objectivity of criteria used and the clarity of the final outcome in a comparative manner. The paper is organized into four sections dealing with the tax haven blacklisting by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the countries of the South, the European Union (EU) and an analysis across lists. The concluding section offers some suggestions.

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Investment Policy Brief 16, March 2019

The Future of Investor-State Dispute Settlement Deliberated at UNCITRAL: Unveiling a Dichotomy between Reforming and Consolidating the Current Regime

Reform of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is being deliberated at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III, which will be meeting in New York between the 1st and 5th of April 2019. For several years, the ISDS regime has been under scrutiny from voices in both developed and developing countries. ISDS reforms have been addressed in multiple forums, including national, bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Reforms could include moving away from arbitration as the norm for dispute settlement between foreign investors and host states or end up by introducing adaptations that  might make arbitration in ISDS cases perform in a more acceptable way. Finding one-size-fits-all solutions in these deliberations is unlikely. Advancing relevant reforms would require full and effective participation of interested countries, equal opportunity for different points of views to be heard and integrated into the design of any potential outcome, and effective mechanisms to address any potential conflicts of interest within this forum.

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South Centre and Oxfam Novib Research Report, December 2018

The Status of Patenting Plants in the Global South

Over the last few decades, the number of patents on plants and plant parts has greatly increased in various parts of the world. This has triggered social debate about possible negative consequences for the breeding sector, farmers and society. Despite the urgency of these questions, most research and literature has focused exclusively on developed countries – the USA and European Union, in particular – while little is known about the extent to which plants are being patented in other parts of the world. This research report, conducted and written by Prof. Carlos M. Correa, aims to fill this information gap by providing an overview of the status of patenting plants in the developing countries and emerging economies of the Global South.

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Climate Finance Readiness E-Book, February, 2019

Climate Finance Readiness Brief E-Book by the South Centre

In the last years, governments around the world have set collective climate and sustainable development goals that go far beyond previous agreements and commitments in terms of scope and ambition. There are clear synergies between the three independently adopted but deeply inter-related milestones of 2015: the 2030 Development Agenda including the SDGs, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

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Research Paper 93, March 2019

Regulating the Digital Economy: Dilemmas, Trade Offs and Potential Options 

The digital economy has been growing exponentially in recent years thanks to new technologies that are promoting a global transformation. Key technologies responsible for this transformation have become the subject of intense discussions under the umbrella term ‘fourth industrial revolution’. This paper offers a discussion on the differentiated impact of digital technologies on unemployment, capabilities building and technological catch-up for developing countries. It articulates some of the key issues and tradeoffs for developing countries that should be considered in policy discussions and deliberations.

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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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