Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 70, December 2019

Lights Go Out at the WTO’s Appellate Body Despite Concessions Offered to US

As of 11 December 2019, the Appellate Body (AB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been rendered non-functional. This policy brief provides a summary of the issues discussed amongst WTO Members in the last two years, in their valiant efforts to address the US’ concerns regarding the AB. The issues include: the use of AB Members’ services to complete an appeal after their term has officially expired; timelines for issuance of AB reports; the meaning of municipal law; advisory opinions; precedence-setting; and overreach by the AB. After much effort by Members in the ‘Walker process’ of negotiations, concessions have been proposed to the US in the draft General Council Decision of 28 November 2019. Language was provided limiting the scope of appeals to questions of law, even though there are situations where the boundary between issues of law and fact are difficult to draw. The text also provides that ‘precedent’ is not created through WTO dispute settlement proceedings. In the area of anti-dumping, the language inserted by the US into the anti-dumping agreement to protect their zeroing practices is confirmed. Nevertheless, the US has rebuffed these offered concessions. It seems determined to amplify its leverage by taking the WTO’s Appellate Body hostage, to extract still more from other Members, including in terms of far-reaching ‘WTO Reforms’.

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Climate Policy Brief 21, December 2019

The State of Play of Climate Finance – UNFCCC Funds and the $100 Billion Question  

Climate finance is key to achieving the ambitions set out in the Paris Agreement as well as in fulfilling the climate actions that developing countries have proposed to implement in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the key vehicles for implementing the agreement reached in Paris in 2015. However, there is much concern that the current flow of finance is inadequate to meet the expectations surrounding both the NDCs and the Paris Agreement. This brief presents quick snapshots of the state of play of climate finance of one dimension of the broad, complex and increasingly fragmented universe of climate finance. It focuses on the flow of climate finance that can be monitored and tracked under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the context of the developed countries’ collective goal of mobilizing US $100 billion annually to support developing countries’ climate actions. The issues on both the demand and supply side of climate finance flows are explored, with specific attention to the ebb and flows and achievements of the multilateral public funds.  After highlighting some of the more serious challenges with the flow of climate finance, the brief ends with an overview of the key negotiating issues around future climate finance flows.

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Policy Brief 69, December 2019

Crisis at the WTO’s Appellate Body (AB): Why the AB is Important for Developing Members

The World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Appellate Body (AB) will be made dysfunctional by 11 December 2019. A disabled AB means that the WTO’s dispute settlement system loses its enforcement mechanism. Even though many smaller developing countries are not major users of the dispute settlement system, nevertheless, they are beneficiaries of the rule of law, and a more predictable trading environment. Several stop-gap measures have been suggested. None are satisfactory. The right to appeal is an important right for all Members which was part of the Uruguay Round package. If this right is removed, why should other parts of that package also not be changed? The future is uncertain – between a much weakened multilateral trading system similar to the days of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); or deep reform of the WTO, in ways that primarily benefit the US and its partners, whilst foreclosing important policy choices for the developing world.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 10, November 2019

Addressing Developing Countries’ Tax Challenges of the Digitalization of the Economy

This Policy Brief sheds light on some of the implications for developing countries concerning the new international taxation global governance structure and the ongoing corporate tax reform process under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project umbrella in the context of the digitalization of the economy. The objective is to inform developing country tax authorities on the issues that may require further South-South cooperation and action to protect taxing rights that are of vital importance for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Firstly, the new international collaborative mechanisms created after the BEPS Project – the Platform for Collaboration on Tax and the Inclusive Framework on BEPS – are described. Secondly, the international tax reform proposals under negotiations in the Inclusive Framework on BEPS are outlined. The final remarks will address the challenges for developing countries to participate in the ongoing international tax reform effectively.

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Policy Brief 68, October 2019

The Core Elements of a Legally Binding Instrument: Highlights of the Revised Draft of the Legally Binding Instrument on Business and Human Rights

Discussions towards the adoption of a legally binding instrument on business and human rights have reached its fifth year. The Chairperson-rapporteur submitted the Revised Draft of the legally binding instrument on 16 July 2019, having in view the comments and proposals received until the end of February 2019. The present policy brief reviews the core elements of the legally binding instrument as they are proposed in the revised draft, with the aim to provide analytical support to States’ delegations and other stakeholders during the negotiations on the binding instrument. This brief examines a number of issues, concerns and legal aspects that have been addressed during the previous sessions of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights and how they have evolved going towards the 5th Session of the OEIGWG.

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Policy Brief 67, October 2019

Enhancing Access to Remedy through International Cooperation: Considerations from the Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises

The shortcomings in international cooperation between regulatory authorities in different countries can open up a gap in their legal regimes which could be exploited by transnational corporations and allow them to elude responsibilities for the violation or abuse of human rights. The Revised Draft of the Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises seeks to bridge this gap and works towards increasing collaboration among countries for ensuring access to effective remedies for victims of human rights violations or abuses due to business activities. This brief looks at some of its salient features and how they can be utilized by countries for the protection and promotion of human rights in their territories.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 9, September 2019

Gender, Tax Reform and Taxation Cooperation Issues: Navigating Equity and Efficiency under Policy Constraints

This policy brief has sought to present a review of the state of thinking and research on a pressing issue of the day: tax reform and tax cooperation and its gendered impacts. There is undeniably widespread agreement amongst all the entities of global governance with responsibility for a role in macroeconomic, financial and trade policies that gender equality and women’s empowerment are important to sustained growth and development. Increasingly, these same voices are articulating and researching on how fiscal policy both on the budgetary and on the revenue side can be made more efficient, gender sensitive and gender responsive. Taxation is the latest area of focused attention in this regard. There is now a quite strong body of work, including case studies, that demonstrates how the tax system can work to the disadvantage of socio-economic development and social goals including gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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Informe Sobre Políticas 64, Agosto 2019

USMCA debe ser enmendado para asegurar el acceso a medicamentos en México

El capítulo del U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)/Tratado entre México, los Estados Unidos y el Canadá (T-MEC) dedicado a los derechos de propiedad intelectual (DPI) otorga monopolios más prolongados y amplios a las empresas de medicamentos originales que los que están actualmente en vigor en México, a costa de los pacientes y los contribuyentes. Entre otras cosas, México tendría que conceder a las ampliaciones de la vigencia de las patentes períodos de exclusividad más amplios y prolongados, también para los medicamentos biológicos costosos, tanto por las demoras en la concesión de patentes como para aquellas que se encuentren en el proceso reglamentario de aprobación, y ampliar las normas de patentabilidad, por ejemplo, exigiendo la concesión de patentes para nuevos usos. México es, sin lugar a dudas, el país del T-MEC que se verá más perjudicado, pero si los miembros del Partido Demócrata de la Cámara de Representantes de los Estados Unidos pueden renegociar algunas de estas disposiciones para restablecer cierto equilibrio entre la necesidad de fomentar la innovación y la competencia, el Gobierno del presidente López Obrador y el Congreso de México todavía pueden cambiar la situación.

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Policy Brief 66, August 2019

Impacts of Unilateral Coercive Measures in Developing Countries: the need to end the US embargo on Cuba

On 1 November 2018, the 193 Member States of the United Nations (UN) held the twenty-seventh consecutive annual vote of the General Assembly on a resolution entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba.” The resolution was adopted with a near unanimous vote of 189 in favor, 2 abstentions (Ukraine and Moldova) and 2 against (United States of America and Israel). Before the vote and for the first time since the resolution was submitted in 1992, the US presented a set of eight proposed amendments to be considered by the 193 Member States, which were all rejected.

The present policy brief is a summary of the input prepared by the South Centre as a contribution to the 2019 report of the Secretary-General with respect to the imposition of unilateral economic, finance and trade measures by one State against another that is prepared pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 73/8.

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Policy Brief 65, July 2019

Time for a Collective Response to the United States Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property

This policy brief discusses the annual Special 301 report issued by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The report is a unilateral tool of the US to pursue its foreign intellectual property (IP) policy by exerting pressure on countries to reform their IP laws and practices. Developing countries are particularly susceptible to this threat. The report identifies countries that are considered by the US as not providing adequate and effective protection of IP of rights holders from the US. The selection of countries is biased to the concerns raised by segments of the US industry. The report targets balanced provisions in countries’ legislations to ensure that IP rights do not hinder the ability of the government to adopt measures for promoting development priorities, particularly in the area of public health. A uniform and collective international response by the affected countries is long overdue. The way forward is to continue dialogue in appropriate multilateral fora, recognizing the need for all countries to maintain policy space to use IP as a domestic policy tool.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 8, July 2019

Improving Transfer Pricing Audit Challenges in Africa through Modern Legislation and Regulations

Auditing multinational enterprises often involves a broad range of complex technical issues, and transfer pricing (TP) is often the most important one. This policy brief looks at some of the key aspects of the modern TP legislation and illustrates how different drafting of regulations can assist in additional revenue collection as well as increased compliance. It further provides practical examples from real cases to show where poor legislation has given rise to tax planning and to profit shifting. Lastly, the brief offers practical solutions to some of the transactions illustrated through the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) Suggested Approach to Drafting Transfer Pricing Legislation.

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Policy Brief 64, July 2019

The USMCA must be amended to ensure access to affordable drugs in Mexico

The intellectual property rights (IPRs) chapter of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA) grants longer and broader monopolies to originator pharmaceutical companies than those currently in force in Mexico, at the expense of patients and taxpayers. Among other things, Mexico would be required to provide patent term extensions both for delays in the granting of patents and for those incurred in the regulatory approval process, broader and longer exclusivity periods, including for expensive biologic drugs, as well as to adopt broader patentability standards, for example by requiring the granting of patents for new uses. Mexico is, without doubt, the country in the USMCA that will be most negatively impacted, but  if the  Democratic Members of the US House of Representatives are able to renegotiate some of these provisions to restore some balance between the need to foster innovation and competition, the Administration of President López Obrador and the Mexican Congress can still make a difference.

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