Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 107, November 2021

The Doha Ministerial Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health on its Twentieth Anniversary

By Nirmalya Syam, Viviana Munoz, Carlos M. Correa and Vitor Ido

This Policy Brief reviews the role of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health in the twenty years since its adoption. It finds that the Doha Declaration has contributed to advance the use of the TRIPS flexibilities to promote public health and should be considered an important subsequent agreement to the TRIPS Agreement, despite the continuing challenges for WTO members to implement the TRIPS flexibilities in full. This brief also analyses the extent to which the Paragraph 6 System that became an amendment of the TRIPS Agreement as a new article 31 bis, pursuant to the Doha Declaration, has facilitated access to medicines and vaccines for countries with none or insufficient pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. It finds that the system to date has not lived up to its promise. The Policy Brief recommends that WTO members assess and identify the challenges for the full use of the TRIPS flexibilities to promote public health, and advances that supplementary tools will need to be designed to never again allow such inequity in access to life saving vaccines and treatments as in the present COVID-19 pandemic.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 21, November 2021

Streamlining the Architecture of International Tax through a UN Framework Convention on Tax Cooperation

By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Sol Picciotto

The architecture of international taxation at present is fragmented among multiple institutions. The UN Tax Committee, the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes are some of the key institutions which set multiple and overlapping international tax standards. The lack of a genuinely global international tax body has long been a lacunae in the international economic system and a disadvantage for developing countries, who are unable to participate in international tax standard setting as full and equal participants. This has been borne out most recently by the Two Pillar Solution for taxing the digital economy that has come from the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework. The G-77’s renewed demand for a global tax body shows the issue continues to remain a priority for developing countries.

This Policy Brief provides a way for bringing the existing plethora of institutions under unified, universal and democratic control through a UN Framework Convention on Tax Cooperation (UN FCTC). This idea builds on the long-standing idea of a UN Tax Convention, which has also been recommended by the UN FACTI Panel. A UN FCTC would function similarly to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC), through a Conference of Parties (COP) which would give the existing institutions such as the UN Tax Committee and Inclusive Framework mandates to work on. In this regard, it would replace the narrow mandates of the OECD and G20 with mandates coming from all the Parties to the UN FCTC, which could be all countries, both developed and developing. A UN FCTC thus provides a practical and realistic way forward for a genuinely universal, intergovernmental framework for international tax rule making under the auspices of the United Nations.

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Policy Brief 106, November 2021

Strengthening WHO for Future Health Emergencies while Battling COVID-19: Major Outcomes of the 2021 World Health Assembly

By Nirmalya Syam and Mirza Alas

The 74th World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) took place in May 2021 in a time when developing countries had to confront a substantial surge in COVID-19 infections and fatalities, while continuing to face inadequate access to vaccines. Meanwhile, the majority of the global supplies were secured by a few rich countries, ignoring the pleas of the WHO Secretariat. However, even though discussions around the COVID-19 response and strengthening emergency preparedness and response dominated the Assembly, WHO Member States could not achieve any concrete outcome to addressing the question of equitable access to vaccines and other health technologies for COVID-19. In this context, this policy brief describes some of the major outcomes of the Assembly.

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Policy Brief 105, October 2021

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture: Saving, Sharing and Taking Care of the Plants and Seeds that Feed the World

By Dr. Kent Nnadozie

This Policy Brief provides an introduction to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and its contribution to conserve, sustainably use and fairly and equitably share the benefits of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, for sustainable agriculture and food security. The brief also provides an update on the involvement of the ITPGRFA in the prevailing issues under discussion in various biodiversity-related fora, including ongoing negotiations for a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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Policy Brief 104, October 2021

Compulsory licensing vs. the IP waiver: what is the best way to end the COVID-19 pandemic?

By Olga Gurgula

This policy brief examines the currently discussed proposals at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that aim to resolve the problem of the production shortages of COVID-19 vaccines. This includes the two key submissions, i.e. the proposal by South Africa and India on the Intellectual Property (IP) waiver, partially supported by the United States (US), and the European Union (EU) proposal to clarify the use of compulsory licensing. While each of these mechanisms may help to improve the production of COVID-19 vaccines to various degrees, there is intense debate about which of these proposals is the most effective. This policy brief outlines the strengths and weaknesses of each of them with a view to informing the policy decisions by WTO Members on the best way to promptly accelerate the vaccine production that is urgently needed today. It concludes that the proposed IP waiver is a more effective solution for addressing the current emergency.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 20, October 2021

Making the UN Tax Committee’s Subcommittees More Effective for Developing Countries

By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Sebastien Babou Diasso, and Aaditri Solankii

New United Nations (UN) Tax Committee Members have been appointed by the UN Secretary-General and among them 13 out of 25 are from developing countries. The Committee sets international tax standards, vital for financing for development, and works mainly through its Subcommittees. However, an unhealthy trend over time has been the disproportionate involvement of business representatives in the Subcommittees, which can be harmful for promoting the interests of developing countries. This policy brief examines this trend and outlines some of the tools available to developing countries to promote their interests in the Subcommittees.

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Climate Policy Brief 26, October 2021

Some Key Elements for Developing Countries in Climate Change Negotiations of COP 26: Climate Finance, Article 6 Negotiations and Implications

By M. Natalia Pacheco Rodríguez and Luis Fernando Rosales

Human influence is deepening the climate crisis at an unprecedented pace. Developing countries’ economies have been hit hard by the crisis caused by COVID-19. Means of implementation are crucial for them to contribute to the achievement of the Paris Agreement goal. Developed countries must fulfill their commitments to provide US$ 100 billion per year by 2025 to climate finance. The latest years’ negotiations have shown the importance of improving the reporting methodology and the need for an agreed operational climate finance definition. In turn, Article 6 negotiations offer an opportunity to ensure higher ambition of both mitigation and adaptation through cooperative approaches while respecting the agreed balance between market and non-market approaches. What should developing countries expect on these issues at COP 26?

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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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