WTO Public Forum 2022 Working Session: Mainstreaming Development in the WTO
30 September 2022
WTO Room E
Time: 11:30-12:45 CEST
The Global South has a fundamental interest in the WTO. In framing the future of trade, reforming and strengthening the organisation requires mainstreaming development in the WTO. The primary question is how to ensure that the broader development dimension of the multilateral trading system is advanced and not simply relegated to polarising conversations about special and differential treatment. This session explores ways in which the multilateral trading system can meaningfully address the needs of developing countries including LDCs. These include assessing different approaches to build greater equity in the trading regime, considering ways to improve the capacity for developing countries to benefit from trade, establishing a deeper role and voice for developing countries including LDCs in developing balanced trade rules, and examining how they can exercise their right to fully participate in the consensus-based decision-making processes of the WTO.
IPR-related Statistics in WTO Trade Policy Reviews
By Peter Lunenborg
The WTO Secretariat Trade Policy Review (TPR) report is an important tool for a WTO Member which synthesizes objective trade-related information in a single document and enables the monitoring of developments in trade. Relevant statistics are therefore an important element of a TPR report.
Currently the practice of using statistical information on intellectual property rights (IPRs) across TPRs is not uniform. This Policy Brief surveys the use of IPR-related statistics in WTO TPRs with a view to exploring possible harmonization and inclusion of common information elements in future TPRs. Harmonized information would provide a baseline for comparison between countries and across time for a single country with respect to the level of IPR protection and immediate benefits derived from the creation of and trade in IPRs.
TRIPS WAIVER: AN INSUFFICIENT MULTILATERAL RESPONSE. TRIPS-CONSISTENT NATIONAL ACTIONS ARE CALLED FOR
After almost 20 months from the submission of a “TRIPS waiver” request by India and South Africa, co-sponsored by 65 WTO member States (and supported by more than 100 WTO Members), a “Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement” (WT/MIN(22)/W/15/Rev.2) (‘the Decision’) was belatedly adopted by the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization on 17 June 2022.
This Decision does recognize that, as argued by developing countries and a large number of organizations and academics, intellectual property (IP) poses obstacles for the expansion of manufacturing capacity and timely access to health products and technologies to respond to COVID-19. The response to the pandemic required a rapid increase in the supply of countermeasures, while technology holders refused to share their technologies.
Not only developed countries successfully deviated the negotiations towards an outcome different from what was pursued by developing countries’ diplomats; the process for its adoption did not allow for the full and informed participation of the latter. The process leading to the Decision confirms the need to fully use the TRIPS flexibilities to address emergency and other situations where public health and other public interests are at stake, and to review the current international IP regime (including article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement) to accelerate the sharing of technology, including know-how.
Doha Twenty Years On – Has The Promise Been Betrayed?
By Yousuf Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi
The Doha Declaration’s twentieth anniversary in November 2021 has taken place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The experience of the past two years has demonstrated that the very factors that necessitated the Declaration—the problems of inequitable access to medicines and other health technologies for the world’s poor—continue to plague us.
Has the promise of the Doha Declaration been betrayed? In this contribution, we critically engage with this question, focusing our appraisal on whether the Doha Declaration has been successful in fulfilling its commitments to: (a) advancing access to health; (b) equity and fairness in the relations between WTO Members States; and (c) recognising perspectives from the developing world in formulating IP policy. Ultimately, we conclude that the promise of the Doha Declaration has failed to materialise.
There are many reasons for this. For instance, developed country governments have intentionally undermined the Declaration by their insistence on inserting more onerous TRIPS-plus provisions in free trade agreements and economic partnership agreements, which decimate the limited flexibilities permitted by the TRIPS Agreement. And where countries have sought to use such flexibilities, they have been assailed by an over-litigious pharmaceutical industry, and threats by governments such as the US 301 Watch List. For these reasons, we argue for the need for alternative paradigms to challenge Western hegemony and norms regarding IP and other trade-related issues, and for effectively challenging this through the application of a “decoloniality” approach.
Twenty Years After Doha: An Analysis of the Use of the TRIPS Agreement’s Public Health Flexibilities in India
By Muhammad Zaheer Abbas, PhD
The World Trade Organization (WTO) linked intellectual property protection with trade. The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), however, included a number of public health flexibilities in order to provide latitude to the Member States to tailor their national patent laws to fit their individual needs. In 2001, the Doha Declaration further clarified and reaffirmed the existing TRIPS flexibilities. This paper argues that India has taken the lead role in enacting the TRIPS Agreement’s substantive and procedural patent flexibilities by introducing unique legislative measures to deal with the problem of access to medicines. This article evaluates India’s use of section 3(d) as a subject matter exclusivity provision. It examines constitutional validity and TRIPS compliance of section 3(d). It also evaluates India’s use of the flexibility to define the term “inventive step”. Moreover, this article evaluates India’s use of compulsory licensing, the most notable exception to patent rights provided under the TRIPS Agreement. This empirical study is important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has once again highlighted the same public health issues that the Doha Declaration sought to address twenty years ago.
WTO Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions: How much tariff revenue have developing countries lost?
By Rashmi Banga
This research paper highlights the adverse impacts of the continuing WTO moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions on the developing and least developed countries. The rapidly progressing digitalization along with the ongoing pandemic and the food crisis are creating multiple demands on the government revenues. However, because of the moratorium almost all developing, and least developed countries are losing tariff revenues especially at the time when they are most needed. Not only are they losing the fiscal space but are also losing their regulatory space as they are unable to regulate the growing imports of digitizable products, especially of luxury items like the movies, music and video games. It is estimated that in the period 2017-2020, developing countries and LDCs lost $56 billion of tariff revenue, of which $48 billion were lost by the developing countries and $8 billion by the least developed countries. It is interesting to note that this loss of tariff revenue is from the imports of just 49 products (at HS six-digit). With no clarity on the definition of electronic transmissions (ET) and thereby on the scope of the moratorium, the continuation of the WTO moratorium on customs duties on ET can lead to substantive tariff revenue losses for developing and least developed countries in the future.
Manufacturing for Export: A TRIPS-Consistent Pro-Competitive Exception
by Carlos M. Correa and Juan I. Correa
The paper discusses the flexibilization of the sui generis system of supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) under European law recently introduced to allow for the manufacturing, stockpiling and export of covered products. Against this background, it examines the viability under the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) of an exception allowing for the manufacture and export of patent-protected products. It concludes that such an exception would promote competition and enhance access to medicines (including biologicals) for the general public while being consistent with Article 30 of the TRIPS Agreement if read in accordance with the principles of interpretation of customary international law.
Analysis of the Outcome Text of the Informal Quadrilateral Discussions on the TRIPS COVID-19 Waiver
By Carlos M. Correa and Nirmalya Syam
Almost one and a half years after the proposal for a waiver of certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement regarding health technologies for COVID-19 was proposed by India and South Africa with the support of the majority of WTO Members, the TRIPS Council has been unable to reach consensus on the proposed waiver or engage in text negotiations. In this context, the TRIPS Council agreed to suspend the discussions to allow the possibility of some solution to emerge from informal high-level consultations between the European Union, the United States of America, India and South Africa. Recently, the WTO Director-General transmitted the outcome of the informal consultations along with a draft text to the TRIPS Council. In this context, this policy brief analyzes the elements of the draft text that has been transmitted to the TRIPS Council. The proposed solution, which offers clarifications and limited waivers on some of the provisions governing compulsory licenses on patents relating to vaccines, reflects developed countries’ strong opposition to the broader waiver sought by the proponents to rapidly expand manufacturing capacity and the supply of health products needed to address the pandemic.
Draft Fisheries Subsidies Agreement: some key issues to address for a sustainable catch
By Peter Lunenborg
This Policy Brief reviews the draft Chair’s text for a Fisheries Subsidies Agreement (WT/MIN(21)/W/5). Pursuant to Sustainable Development Goal 14.6, any agreement must effectively discipline fisheries subsidies especially of larger scale fisheries and distant water fishing fleets and must cater to the needs of developing countries including in the form of effective Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT).
This Brief highlights several provisions of the text which would need to be improved to reach its mandated objectives. These provisions include the fisheries management flexibilities in Article 4.3 and Article 5.1.1 which would result in the continuation of fisheries subsidies; provisions on subsidies to fishing in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), subsidies to vessels not flying the flag of the subsidizing Member and non-specific fuel subsidies; due process requirements for determinations of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by coastal Members; treatment of subsidies to finance companies; the proposal purported to address forced labour; treatment of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations/Arrangements (RFMO/As) in the text; the relationship between the future Agreement and the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) including their Committees; and the Agreement’s S&DT provisions.
The WTO TRIPS Waiver and Essential Security Rights in 2022
By Dr. Alexander Beyleveld
Almost two years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are still far from bringing the pandemic to an end. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that large vaccine inequities remain worldwide. In order to address this problem, a large subset of World Trade Organization (WTO) members are in favour of waiving certain obligations contained in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). Against this backdrop, this article contemplates the legal necessity of such a waiver given that Article 73 of the TRIPS Agreement contains essential security exceptions which may render the obligations in question inapplicable under the interpretation that the pandemic affects law and public order interests.
Direct Monetary Costs of Intellectual Property for Developing Countries
A changing balance for TRIPS?
It is startling that almost no discussion exists on the direct monetary costs for countries of the IP international regulatory framework. Indeed, on top of the inherent costs on ´access´ or ´learning´ abilities, there are some important tangible, measurable, direct monetary costs to countries. These costs are the financial payments that occur simply for the use of intellectual property. These payments are relevant in any discussion on the role of IP in the context of development.
An overview of some findings is presented in this report, with the aim of promoting an assessment and discussion at the WTO and other fora whenever there is a consideration of the impacts of the IP international regulatory framework, notably the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) in individual countries.
A Review of WTO Disputes on TRIPS: Implications for Use of Flexibilities for Public Health
By Nirmalya Syam
The use of TRIPS flexibilities by WTO members involves interpretation of the obligations under TRIPS which can be challenged under the WTO dispute settlement system. Mutually agreed solutions, panel or Appellate Body decisions adopted in such disputes can thus impact the scope of TRIPS flexibilities to address, among others, public health objectives. This paper explores how the WTO dispute settlement system applies to disputes under TRIPS, and reviews the outcomes of the disputes relating to the implementation of TRIPS obligations in the context of pharmaceutical products. The paper points to both systemic and substantive concerns arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to disputes under TRIPS. It finds that the dispute settlement system is not aligned to the unique nature of the TRIPS Agreement in the WTO as an agreement that creates positive obligations, and consequently how jurisprudence arising under disputes concerning other covered agreements having negative obligations, have led panels and Appellate Bodies to adopt narrow interpretations of the scope of TRIPS flexibilities in some of the few disputes arising under the TRIPS Agreement. Moreover, mutually agreed settlements adopted in the context of some of the disputes arising under TRIPS have also led to the adoption of TRIPS plus standards, limiting the scope of TRIPS flexibilities. However, in a recent decision, the WTO panel has also relied on the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as a subsequent agreement to guide the interpretation of its provisions. In this context, the paper advances some suggestions to address the systemic and substantive issues arising from the application of the dispute settlement system to the TRIPS Agreement.