Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 59, April 2019

The ‘obvious to try’ method of addressing strategic patenting: How developing countries can utilise patent law to facilitate access to medicines

The current patentability standards for pharmaceutical inventions, as well as strategic patenting used by pharmaceutical companies, have substantially impacted access to affordable medicines. This has been especially detrimental for developing countries, which are under significant pressure to remain compliant with their international and bilateral obligations, while also providing their people with essential drugs. In order to improve access to medicines, developing countries may choose from a range of various mechanisms that may help to facilitate such access, while also allowing them to remain compliant with their international and bilateral obligations. This policy brief suggests that one of such mechanisms is to strengthen the obviousness requirement by applying the ‘obvious to try with a reasonable expectation of success’ test to pharmaceutical follow-on inventions. It is argued that the application of this test may be an effective tool in addressing the negative effect of strategic patenting. It may help to prevent the extension of patent protection and market exclusivity of existing drugs by pharmaceutical companies and, as a result, may open such medicines up to generic competition.

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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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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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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 6, January 2019

Illicit Financial Flows: Conceptual and Practical Issues

The issue of illicit financial flows (IFFs) is of great significance for many countries looking to mobilize domestic resources for achieving their development goals. The High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, led by H.E. Thabo Mbeki, brought the issue into the global spotlight, notably since the release of exposés like the ‘Panama Papers’. This policy brief elaborates on the conceptual underpinnings of IFFs, its sources and the development costs they generate. Building on the report of the High Level Panel, it provides recommendations to stem IFFs from developing countries.

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Policy Brief 57, January 2019

Will the Amendment to the TRIPS Agreement Enhance Access to Medicines?

An amendment to the TRIPS Agreement by incorporation of the text of the decision of the WTO General Council on 30 August 2003 (as article 31bis) has been made in response to the problem identified in paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. This paragraph sought a solution to situations where patented pharmaceuticals which are not available in a country with no or insufficient manufacturing capacity can be supplied by a foreign provider. As originally adopted, the TRIPS Agreement did not allow the grant of compulsory licenses for exports only, thereby preventing generic manufacturers from exporting the required products to countries unable to produce them. While the new article 31bis is a step forward as it reflects public health concerns, it would be necessary to streamline the procedures to effectively ensure broader access to pharmaceutical products at low cost and in a timely manner.

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Investment Policy Brief 13, December 2018

IP Licence, Trademarks and ISDS: Bridgestone v. Panama

Can an intellectual property right or a license authorizing its use be deemed an ‘investment’ under bilateral investment treaties? This policy brief discusses the arguments submitted by the parties in the Bridgestone Licensing Services, Inc. and  Bridgestone Americas, Inc. v. Republic of Panama case on questions regarding a trademark license agreement. Bridgestone Licensing Services, Inc. (BSLS) and Bridgestone Americas, Inc. (BSAM) together initiated arbitration proceedings on the grounds that Panama’s Supreme Court decision was unjust and arbitrary, violated Panama’s obligations under the United States-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA),  expropriated their investments, and violated the requirement of fair and equitable treatment (FET) to BSLS’s and BSAM’s investments.

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Investment Policy Brief 12, December 2018

Investor-State Dispute Settlement: An Anachronism Whose Time Has Gone

Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – a mechanism that allows foreign investors to bring claims against host governments to an international arbitral tribunal – is a relic that should be abolished. Its alleged benefits have not materialized and its costs – monetary and other – can represent a formidable obstacle to good economic governance. We recommend policymakers to terminate ISDS provisions in existing agreements and eschew them in future trade and investment treaties.

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Tax Cooperation Policy Brief 5, December 2018

The Definition and Treatment of Tax Havens in Brazilian Tax  Law between 1995 and 2015

Over the years, a number of ‘tax haven lists’ have been created at the national and international level, with varying definitions and criteria used to identify jurisdictions falling under their scope. This policy brief presents the experience of Brazil in compiling their national list of tax havens, the road map they followed for its implementation, and the impact that it has had on their foreign investment flows. It also provides the lessons learnt from this experience, which can be positively utilized by other developing countries.

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Policy Brief 56, October 2018

Setting the pillars to enforce corporate human rights obligations stemming from international law

The release of the Zero Draft of the Legally Binding Instrument to Regulate, in International Human Rights Law, the Activities of Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises by the Chairperson of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Business and Human Rights (OEIGWG), is likely to revive discussions on the recognition of corporate entities as subjects of international law. The present brief examines corporate entities’ human rights obligations in the context of the Zero Draft, taking into account the views and comments presented during the first three sessions of the OEIGWG and the need to advance the discussion on those entities’ obligations under international law.

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