Emerging Trends in FTAs and Public Health: Are the EU, USA, and China shifting positions?
Thursday, 7 October 2021
16:00 – 17:30 CET
The South Centre is holding a series of webinars on emerging trends related to free trade agreements (FTAs) and investment agreements that impact public health. The goal is to generate awareness, share experiences and expand knowledge for academics, policymakers and negotiators in ongoing and/or future negotiations. After our first webinar focused on investment treaties and IP, we this webinar examines the EU, USA, and China’s recent experiences.
The world faces many challenges besides the current coronavirus pandemic, including hunger, environmental destruction, climate change, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and rising inequality. Global cooperation is necessary to address these challenges and, in some areas, the global community is responding to them. Calls to form a coalition against a particular country, such as from the United States towards China, divert attention from the problems the world is facing and hamper progress in addressing these global challenges. History taught us that the best way to resolve our differences and to move forward is through dialogue and cooperation, not confrontation.
Practical Implications of ‘Vaccine Nationalism’: A Short-Sighted and Risky Approach in Response to COVID-19
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
To end the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure a return of normalcy, an effective and safe vaccine is the best hope. The vaccine nationalism approach, adopted by some countries to gain preferential access to emerging COVID-19 vaccines, poses a threat to the fair and equitable distribution of the potential vaccines across the globe. This research paper critically evaluates the approach of vaccine nationalism and argues that this self-centred political behaviour of leaving others behind is short-sighted, potentially risky, morally indefensible, and practically inefficient in containing the pandemic. This paper highlights why it is important for national governments to support the collaborative and coordinated effort of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility for the timely development and efficient delivery of potential COVID-19 vaccines. It concludes that an effective response to the current health and economic crisis should be guided by values of international solidarity, multilateralism, equality, and global collaboration. It proposes the adoption of an enforceable global framework to address the concerns arising from the combination of vaccine nationalism and intellectual property exclusivities.
Digital Transformation: Prioritizing Data Localization
By Bilal Zaka
After years of rather stable and predictable growth of telecommunications and software systems, the last decade has witnessed a tremendous shift towards unpredictable and disruptive innovations in every field of life. Today, we are experiencing the true social, political, financial and cultural effects of what is termed as globalization, deregulation, liberalization and convergence. Some major factors influencing this change are proliferation of mobile devices, ubiquitous wireless access to internet and increasing interventions of online or internet-driven technologies. While this digital transformation is inevitable, it is imperative that we equip ourselves to handle the negative implications of external influence caused by foreign dependencies and the non-regulatory nature of the new information ecosystem.
WTO reform and the crisis of multilateralism – A Developing Country Perspective
About the Book:
The WTO has not been able to recover since the collapse of the Doha Round in July 2008. Several ministerial conferences including the Buenos Aires meeting in December 2017 failed to reach agreement. The US Trump Administration launched a campaign to reform the WTO in 2018 and 2019. This book argues that the Trump Administration reform proposals have been much more aggressive and far-reaching than the Obama Administration before it, threatening to erode hard-won special and differential treatment rights of developing countries. By blocking the appointment of new Appellate Body members, the US has effectively paralysed the Appellate Body and deepened the crisis of the multilateral trading system. Developing countries have responded to the proposals and called for the WTO to be development-oriented and inclusive. This book provides a critical analysis of the US-led reform proposals and seeks to build a discourse around an alternative set of concepts or principles to guide the multilateral trading system based on fairness, solidarity, social justice, inclusiveness and sustainability.
Author: Faizel Ismail served as the Ambassador Permanent Representative of South Africa to the WTO (2010-2014).
Special Section 301:US Interference with the Design and Implementation of National Patent Laws
By Dr. Carlos M. Correa
The continuous application of Special Section 301 by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) undermines the rule of law as a fundamental principle of a multilateral system based on the sovereign equality of states and the respect for international law. Interference with foreign countries’ national intellectual property (IP) policies—which have significant socio-economic effects—negates their right to determine independently the level and modalities of protection of such property within the framework and policy space allowed by the international law. This paper examines the patent-related claims made by the USTR in relation to the developing countries on the USTR Priority Watch List. It argues that the regulations and practices identified by the USTR show a legitimate use of the flexibilities provided for by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and that the ignorance of the public interests of the countries concerned (for instance, with regard to access to affordable medicines) has contributed to the discredit (and ineffectiveness) of the Special Section 301.
US-China trade deal: preliminary analysis of the text from WTO perspective
By Peter Lunenborg
The long-awaited ‘Phase 1’ trade deal between the United States and China, officially termed the ‘Economic and Trade Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People’s Republic of China’, was signed on 15 January 2020. It will enter into force on Valentine’s Day, on Friday, 14 February 2020. This deal is a result of US exercise of political power and unilateral World Trade Organization (WTO)-inconsistent tariffs in order to extract trade concessions, an expression of the most pure protectionism that the WTO is supposed to prevent. Nevertheless, the WTO was unhelpful in addressing the US economic aggression against China. This failure to protect a Member from illegitimate unilateral measures is, perhaps, one of the most significant manifestations of the often-mentioned ‘crisis’ of the WTO, and actually is one of the subjects on which the proposed ‘reform’ of the organization should focus.
The Politics of Trade in the Era of Hyperglobalisation: A Southern African Perspective
About the Book:
Matters of international trade are increasingly widely recognised as major shapers of global politics. News bulletins are giving more and more coverage to matters like the so-called “trade wars” between the United States and China. These are, indeed, increasingly defining relations between the two largest economies in the world and could well underpin a multi-dimensional rivalry that could be a central feature of international relations for many years to come. Brexit is dominating and indeed re-shaping politics in the United Kingdom. By definition a rejection of a regional integration arrangement, Brexit has also revealed under-currents profoundly shaped by the outcome of a broader trade-driven process called “globalisation”. Just as regional integration is weakening in Europe, African countries have taken decisions that could lead to the most profound and ambitious step forward in African regional integration – the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This study seeks to present an analysis of the political economy of trade negotiations over the past quarter century on two main fronts: the multi-lateral and those pertaining to regional integration on the African continent.
Author: Rob Davies is former South African Minister of Trade and Industry.
Preserving Special & Differential Treatment in WTO: statement by Ambassador Zhang Xiangchen of China at the General Council Meeting
There remain significant gaps between developing and developed WTO Members in terms of economic and social development, and developing Members still face tremendous capacity constraints in participating in the multilateral trading system. The fundamentals for the application of special and differential treatment in favor of developing Members remain unchanged. US Communications WT/GC/W/757/REV.1 and WT/GC/W/764 neglect this. Below is the statement by H.E. Mr. Zhang Xiangchen, Permanent Representative of China to the World Trade Organization (WTO), at the General Council Meeting on Communications of Development on 28 February 2019. (more…)
With floods now causing more damage more frequently around the world, it is time to counter their effects by turning our towns into “Sponge Cities”, a recent trend popularised by China to absorb rainwater through permeable roads and pavements, parks, rooftop gardens and other green spaces. (more…)
Two new Chinese funds totalling US$ 5.1 billion to help developing countries tackle climate change and development problems could be a game changer in South-South cooperation and international relations. China gave a big boost to South-South cooperation when its President, Xi Jinping, made two unprecedented mega pledges totalling US$5.1 billion to assist other developing countries, during his visit to the United States in September. (more…)