Policy Briefs

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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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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Policy Brief 128, 25 April 2024

The WHO Intergovernmental Negotiating Body process and the revised draft of the WHO Pandemic Agreement (A/INB/9R/3)

by Nirmalya Syam & Viviana Muñoz Tellez

This Policy Brief considers the negotiating process conducted so far by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) for an instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response under the World Health Organization (WHO), and some aspects of the draft text for the Resumed Ninth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB9R), as well as of the draft proposed resolution for consideration by the World Health Assembly in May 2024. The Policy Brief provides recommendations to assist member States in their negotiations during the INB9R to be held from April 29 to 10 May 2024.

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Policy Brief 127, 17 April 2024

Unlocking the Potential of Copyright Limitations and Exceptions (L&Es)

by Faith O. Majekolagbe

Copyright limitations and exceptions (L&Es) are vital tools for creativity, innovation, access to knowledge and education, and human capital formation. All of these are crucial to the development of societies and achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A strong system of well-defined copyright L&Es guarantees the public adequate access and use of the cultural goods and knowledge that are critical to achieving development goals. This paper identifies and discusses specific clusters of L&Es that are essential for achieving the SDGs. These clusters should be recognized and implemented in copyright laws at national, regional, and international levels to strengthen development objectives. Instead of applying specific L&Es to all countries, regardless of their unique developmental needs, recognizing these clusters of L&Es could help design an approach to international copyright law that is centred around development. Ultimately, this approach would provide greater flexibility in designing development programs that align with the SDGs and recognize copyright law’s inherent development rationale.

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Policy Brief 126, 23 February 2024

Leveraging ESG for promoting Responsible Investment and Human Rights

 By Danish and Daniel Uribe

The growing integration of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles into investment frameworks and corporate reporting reflects a heightened recognition of the interplay between business operations and human rights. This Policy Brief examines the evolution of ESG investing, particularly its role in promoting responsible investment and embedding human rights considerations throughout business practices and supply chains. While ESG frameworks hold promise for enhancing corporate accountability and sustainability, challenges persist in effectively linking ESG criteria with human rights standards. It also shows that disparities in ESG reporting criteria and methodologies, compounded by a lack of shared understanding, pose obstacles to meaningful engagement with human rights responsibilities. The Policy Brief also delineates between ESG investing and reporting, highlighting distinct objectives and practices. While ESG investing aims to mitigate financial risks associated with environmental, social, and governance factors, ESG reporting focuses on evaluating firms’ exposure to ESG risks. The Policy Brief underscores the limitations of ESG frameworks in identifying and preventing human rights impacts comprehensively, emphasising the need for complementary measures such as mandatory human rights due diligence. Finally, the paper considers the need for greater coherence and consistency in ESG frameworks to foster responsible investment, promote human rights, and advance sustainable development goals.

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Policy Brief 125, 12 February 2024

WTO MC13: TRIPS Issues and Technology Transfer

 by Viviana Munoz Tellez, Nirmalya Syam

This Policy Brief discusses issues concerning trade, intellectual property, and technology transfer that are most relevant for consideration at the 13th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024 and inclusion in its outcomes.

The following recommendations are proposed:

  • TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints: MC13 Decision on the scope and modalities of non-violation and situation complaints under the Agreement on Trade related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A second option is to extend the moratorium.
  • TRIPS, diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19: MC13 Decision that extends the MC12 TRIPS waiver Decision (only applicable to vaccines) to diagnostics and therapeutics
  • Relationship between TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity: to be addressed in the MC13 Outcome Document
  • Follow up to the MC12 Declaration on the WTO Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics: to be addressed in the MC13 Outcome Document
  • Relationship of trade and technology transfer: include in the MC13 Outcome Document to reinvigorate and give direction to the Working Group on Trade and Technology Transfer (WGTTT) and increase attention in all relevant bodies on how the WTO can promote technology transfer

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Policy Brief 124, 5 February 2024

How the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism discriminates against foreign producers

By Peter Lunenborg and Vahini Naidu

In April 2023, the European Parliament adopted the final text of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) and revisions to the European Union (EU) Emissions Trading System (ETS). One of the stated objectives of CBAM is to create a level playing field for selected sectors in the EU market and to protect against the risk of ‘carbon leakage’. Based on an analysis and comparison between the legal texts of CBAM and ETS, this paper finds that CBAM discriminates against foreign producers in favour of EU domestic producers in many areas including with regard to the scope and type of emissions covered, free allocation of allowances, exemptions under EU ETS not mirrored in CBAM, buying and selling of ETS allowances in comparison with CBAM certificates, verification, penalties, authorization, use of credits from the Carbon Development Mechanism (CDM) and guarantees.

The paper also provides a brief overview of how the CBAM and ETS align with WTO rules, highlighting the potential discrepancies in the implementation as they apply to foreign and EU producers respectively. The paper provides several suggestions on how to make EU’s CBAM more WTO-compatible and a recommendation for further legal research.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief No. 37, 29 January 2024

A Decade of the Indian Advance Pricing Agreement Programme: Achievements and Challenges

By Priyanka Mashelkar and Apoorv Tiwari

India’s Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) programme was introduced in 2012 with the objective of reducing transfer pricing disputes and providing certainty to taxpayers on their international transactions. In the last decade or so, the programme has proven to be a successful dispute mitigation and resolution mechanism. The authors use data and statistics from a recently released report by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in India to highlight the success of the programme, while also acknowledging the challenges ahead, especially as taxpayers’ expectations from the programme continue to rise.

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Policy Brief 123, 14 December 2023

The WHO CA+ Discussions on Pathogen Access and Benefit Sharing: State of Play

 By Nirmalya Syam

This brief explores the scope of a World Health Organization (WHO) pathogen access and benefit-sharing (PABS) mechanism as a possible outcome of the negotiations ongoing in the WHO Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) for a WHO Convention, Agreement or other Instrument (WHO CA+) for pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery (PPRR). After seven sessions of the INB, substantial differences remain between developed and developing countries on the PABS system. While the text contains specific obligations on rapid sharing of pathogen material and genetic sequence information reflective of the primary interest of developed countries to get such access outside the framework of the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity through a specialized WHO instrument such as the PABS system under the WHO CA+, the current text continues to be weak in terms of effectively operationalizing fair and equitable-benefit sharing. To that end, it is critical that detailed provisions on standard material transfer agreements, data access relating to their genomic sequence information and specific obligations on monetary and non-monetary benefit-sharing by recipients of pathogen material and sequence information are included in the provisions establishing the PABS system. Therefore, it is important that the proposals that have been made in this regard by developing countries are incorporated in the draft negotiating text.

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Policy Brief 122, 30 November 2023

Data Access and the EU Data Strategy: Implications for the Global South

By Marc Stuhldreier

This study explores the value of data in the digital economy and the challenges surrounding data ownership, access rights, and equitable distribution of the value. It examines the European Data Strategy and highlights its shortcomings as well as its implications for the Global South. This contribution emphasises the need for unlocking the potential of collected data by enhancing accessibility and challenging protectionist measures and discusses the importance of fair competition and innovation. It also discusses the importance of balancing access rights with legitimate privacy concerns, trade secrets, and intellectual property rights. The paper concludes by highlighting the importance for developing countries to introduce tailored regulations that suit their specific needs, empowering them to seize opportunities and navigate the digital economy effectively.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief No. 36, 26 October 2023

Beyond the Two Pillar Proposals

A Simplified Approach for Taxing Multinationals

By Sol Picciotto, Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed, Alex Cobham, Rasmi Ranjan Das, Emmanuel Eze, Bob Michel

This paper puts forward an alternative to the proposed multilateral convention under Pillar One of the BEPS project, by building on and going beyond the progress made so far. A new direction was signalled in 2019 by the G-24 paper proposing a taxable nexus based on significant economic presence, combined with fractional apportionment. The resulting measures agreed under the two Pillars entail acceptance in principle of this approach, and also provide detailed technical standards for its implementation. These include: (i) a taxable nexus based on a quantitative threshold of sales revenues; (ii) a methodology for defining the global consolidated profits of MNEs for tax purposes, and (iii) detailed technical standards for defining and quantifying the factors that reflect the real activities of MNEs in a jurisdiction (sales, assets and employees).

The time is now right to take up the roadmap outlined by the G-24. The work done shows that technical obstacles can be overcome, the challenge is essentially political. This paper aims to provide a blueprint for immediate measures that States can take, while engaging in deliberation at national, regional and international levels for a global drive towards practical and equitable reforms. Unitary taxation with formulary apportionment is the only fair and effective way to ensure taxation of MNEs where economic activities occur, as mandated by the G20. It can ensure that MNE profits are taxed once and only once, provide stability and certainty for business, and establish a basis for international tax rules fit for the 21st century.

* Also available in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief No. 35, 18 August 2023

The GloBE Rules: Challenges for Developing Countries and Smart Policy Options to Protect Their Tax Base

By Emmanuel Eze, Sol Picciotto, Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed, Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Bob Michel and Tommaso Faccio

The OECD global minimum tax of 15%, known as the Global Anti-Base Erosion (GloBE) Rules, have meant that developing countries need to consider what policy responses to take to ensure they collect the minimum tax and not cede it to developed countries. One option being promoted by the OECD is the “Qualified Domestic Minimum Top Up Tax” (QDMTT), with the claim that it will help developing countries collect the minimum tax of 15%. This Policy Brief points out that under the QDMTT MNEs can still pay zero taxes, it does not guarantee tax collection, it is complex to administer, it curtails national sovereignty in the form of the “peer review” mechanism and it is relevant mainly for tax havens which are destinations of profit shifting. The Brief then outlines policy options relevant for developing countries, namely Alternative Minimum Taxes (AMTs) and reform of tax incentives.

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