Policy Briefs

Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 19, October 2021

Developing Country Demands for an Equitable Digital Tax Solution

 By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary

The taxation of the digitalized economy is the foremost challenge in international taxation today. Countries around the world, especially developing countries, are struggling with taxing the rising profits of major tech giants which operate on entirely new business models that have made traditional international tax rules obsolete. A “Two Pillar solution” is being negotiated in the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS that seeks to update these rules, re-allocate taxing rights and establish a global minimum tax. However, as it stands, the solution has very limited tax revenue benefits for developing countries and is administratively complex. For the solution to be durable, it must be equitable, and accordingly must incorporate the concerns of developing countries going forward.

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Policy Brief 103, September 2021

Strong Intellectual Property Protection, Weak Competition Rules – or the Other Way Around to Accelerate Technology Transfer to the Global South? Ten Considerations for a “Prodevelopment” IP-Related Competition Law

By Klaus D. Beiter

Competition law provisions relating to intellectual property (IP) rights should play an enhanced role in facilitating the domestic and international transfer and dissemination of technology. IP-related competition rules in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) create an obligation for Member States to apply competition law in the IP context. TRIPS competition rules should be read in a “prodevelopment” fashion – IP rights need to be read reductively, IP-related competition law expansively. Ten considerations for a “prodevelopment” IP-related competition law are formulated.

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Policy Brief 102, September 2021

Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Production via Involuntary Technology Transfer

By Dr. Olga Gurgula

This policy brief explains that the currently discussed proposals at the WTO related to increasing the production of COVID-19 vaccines, including the EU proposal to clarify the use of compulsory licensing and the submission by South Africa and India on the intellectual property (IP) waiver, require complementary mechanisms to rapidly improve the production of COVID-19 vaccines that are urgently needed today. The key problem is that to accelerate the manufac- ture of COVID-19 vaccines, access to knowledge and know-how, that are protected by trade secrets owned by several pharmaceutical companies, is required. It is therefore important that governments implement an additional mechanism of compulsory licensing of trade secrets that would allow an involuntary transfer of COVID-19 vaccine technologies. Such a mechanism would be compliant with the TRIPS Agreement and relevant whether the TRIPS waiver is adopted or not agreed upon. While this mechanism must provide full access to the information necessary to manufacture the vaccines in question, it must also ensure the protection of the transferred trade secrets.

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Policy Brief 94, Setembro de 2021

O papel dos tribunais na implementação das flexibilidades do TRIPS: Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) do Brasil declara inconstitucionais as extensões automáticas de prazos de patentes

Por Vitor Henrique Pinto Ido

Este policy brief traz uma contextualização, um resumo e uma análise da decisão do Supremo Tribunal Federal do Brasil, de 6 de maio de 2021, que declarou inconstitucionais as extensões automáticas de prazos de patentes, revogando o Artigo 40, Parágrafo Único, da Lei de Propriedade Industrial do Brasil, de 1996. Conclui-se que esta é uma decisão histórica que contribui para a implementação de um regime de patentes mais equilibrado no Brasil, com impacto positivo no acesso a medicamentos no país. É um precedente importante no que se refere ao papel que os tribunais podem desempenhar na definição dos contornos da proteção à propriedade intelectual e das flexibilidades do Acordo TRIPS.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 18, September 2021

Combatting Tax Treaty Abuse: Tools available under the BEPS Multilateral Instrument

 By Kuldeep Sharma, ADIT (CIOT,UK)

The anxiety of taxpayers, consultants and advisors over the consistent application of Principal Purpose Test (PPT) provisions in tax treaties can now be put to rest as tax authorities are expected to consistently read the PPT provisions in conjunction with the preamble, i.e. the key to application of PPT provisions lies in the preamble of the treaty itself. This follows on taking a leaf out of the Preamble to the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (MLI), Vienna Convention, Commentaries on PPT in the respective Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and United Nations (UN) Model Tax Convention (MTC), 2017 and Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) instructions on PPT which abundantly highlight on conjoint application of the preamble in the course of invocation of PPT provisions. Now, the entire focus of extending treaty benefits has shifted to undertaking bonafide transactions and preventing double taxation as against a tendency of securing tax savings through tax avoidance. Therefore, PPT as read with the preamble can clearly be invoked to combat treaty-shopping arrangements, abusive tax planning and abusive tax avoidance arrangements or transactions. At the same time, tax authorities in any part of the world may not be inclined to invoke PPT as read with the preamble in respect of any arrangement or transaction when taxpayers are able to discharge their onus establishing that (below mentioned conditions to be satisfied in tandem):

– genuine business and commercial reasons for a transaction exist;

– a purpose for the transaction cannot be ascribed to non-taxation or reduced taxation through tax evasion or tax avoidance;

– despite no tax advantages, the transaction would be carried out exactly in the same way; and

– it cannot reasonably be considered that one of the principal purposes of the arrangement or transaction is to obtain treaty benefits and that the object and purpose of the treaty is getting defeated.

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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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Policy Brief 100, August 2021

EU Proposals regarding Article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

 By Nirmalya Syam

This Policy Brief presents an analysis of the proposal by the European Union (EU) with regards to Article 31bis of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), as part of a Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in the circumstances of a pandemic. It discusses the EU’s proposed clarifications, why Article31bis does not provide an effective solution to promote access to pharmaceutical products and possible options.

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Policy Brief 99, August 2021

The TRIPS COVID-19 Waiver, Challenges for Africa and Decolonizing Intellectual Property

By Yousuf Vawda

The intellectual property (IP) regimes of African countries are a function of their colonial past, which imposed strong protections, and which have been entrenched through the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). This has had a devastating effect on their ability to access necessary health products both before and during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to reflect on the challenges that African countries face, before considering the implications of the WTO TRIPS waiver on COVID-19 (henceforth, waiver). In assessing the challenges faced by these countries, as well as the possibilities of improving access, this paper argues that while the waiver offers the best available solution to overcome the current supply shortages of a range of COVID-19 health products, in the longer term a break from this past—the decolonization of IP regimes—is necessary.

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Policy Brief 98, July 2021

The Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas: what is next?

By Luis Fernando Rosales Lozada

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) was adopted in December 2018. However, its application seems challenging. The South Centre organized a virtual meeting to discuss the implementation of the UNDROP on 4th June 2021, aiming to promote a debate about future actions to move forward the implementation of the UNDROP. The meeting provided an opportunity to listen to the views of government representatives, peasants’ associations, civil society organizations and academia. During the meeting, different questions were discussed such as how the current health and social crisis, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has impacted the situation of peasants, the role of the UNDROP in promoting and protecting peasants’ rights, the latest developments in the realization of the rights of peasants under the UNDROP and what steps are needed to promote its implementation.

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Policy Brief 97, July 2021

The WTO TRIPS Waiver Should Help Build Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity in Africa

 By Faizel Ismail

The current global health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has re-focused our attention on the inadequacy of the TRIPS agreement and the patent system to address global public health crises. This time, developing countries must ensure that the TRIPS waiver succeeds in creating the impetus for the building of manufacturing capacity in the poorest countries, especially in Africa, for vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other health technologies. This is the only effective way in which African countries can reduce their dependence on imports of essential medicines and build their health security, contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals, for the poorest countries.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 17, July 2021

An Albatross Around the Neck of Developing Nations – MFN Clause in Tax Treaties

By Deepak Kapoor, IRS

The Most Favoured Nation (“MFN”) clause in double taxation avoidance conventions epitomises the basic principle of non-discrimination and intends to bring parity in business and investment opportunities among treaty partner countries and jurisdictions. Inclusion of provisions like MFN and non-discrimination clauses in tax treaties are intended to promote equity among treaty partners. In the context of tax treaties between developed and developing countries, the MFN clauses also act as negotiating tools to bargain for better treaty tax rates.

However, lately these clauses have started demonstrating disadvantageous effects for the source countries, which are mostly developing countries. The MFN clauses generally do not appear to be creating potential risks if they are operational between two equally developed countries but when the relationship is between a developed and developing country, where one partner receives more investments from the other than it makes, such risks are inevitable. Lately, problems have started arising due to various interpretations of the MFN clauses by the courts forcing the source countries to extend benefits of reduced rates and restricted scope to treaty partner countries under the MFN rules. Such beneficial interpretations have gone beyond the basic objective and purpose of the MFN clauses.

In light of recent court cases in South Africa and India, it appears that the MFN clauses are creating opportunities for “reduced taxation” and leading to unintended erosion of tax base of source countries. The problem also lies with the ambiguous drafting and formulations of the MFN clauses, which eventually leads to unexpected negative outcomes for countries who have bound themselves with the future commitments. Therefore, a comprehensive review of existing MFN clauses in tax treaties, their cross connections and possible negative spill over effects to other treaties is the urgent need of the hour for the source jurisdictions.

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Informe Sobre Políticas 96, Julio 2021

Precios justos para la cobertura sanitaria universal: El impacto de la judicialización de la salud

Por Silvina Andrea Bracamonte y José Luis Cassinerio

En el presente trabajo se describen las principales directrices y recomendaciones sobre políticas de precios para ayudar a los países a desarrollar estrategias efectivas, como herramientas para lograr el acceso equitativo a los productos sanitarios con precios asequibles, desechando el creciente fenómeno de la judicialización de la salud como vía adecuada para abordar con un enfoque sistémico esta problemática compleja.

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