Research Paper 14, December 2007

Analysis of the role of the South-South Cooperation to promote governance on intellectual property rights and development.

The international regime on IP rights is currently made up of a patchwork of laws and institutions at the bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels with a growing number of players. The TRIPS Agreement of the WTO forms the core instrument with critical influence on the role of international actors and the scope of national policy making. TRIPS aim at reducing the North-South tension on IP rights protection through a multilateral system as one of its objectives.

The WTO rules on dispute settlement also call for strengthening the multilateral system and ensuring the use of the Dispute Settlement Body to address disputes among WTO members. However, TRIPS becomes the basis for developed countries to demand higher protection of IP rights outside the multilateral system. Such use of TRIPS fundamentally undermines the objective of reducing tension and the contribution of the multilateral system in managing the political-economy of IP rights norm setting. The dispute settlement rules also do not prevent the developed countries from using unilateral trade review mechanism to require the protection of IP rights in developing countries based on standards other than those under TRIPS.

Moreover, TRIPS has weak review mechanism to evaluate and address the socioeconomic impact of the implementation of its provisions. The inability of the multilateral system to manage the political economy of IP rights norm-setting implies that the developed countries can pursue their interests on IP rights protection irrespective of the objectives and principles of TRIPS and the consequences for the multilateral system.

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