WTO

Policy Brief 79, June 2020

Articles 7 and 8 as the basis for interpretation of the TRIPS Agreement

By Thamara Romero

Articles 7 and 8 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) play a central role in assuring the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) the right to implement public health measures. The Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health is also an important element for the interpretation of any provision of the TRIPS Agreement that may have public health implications. The most recent and prominent example of the use of articles 7 and 8 for interpretation in WTO law can be found in the WTO Panel decision of 2018 on the Australia – Tobacco Plain Packaging dispute.

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Statement, May 2020

Message from the South Centre at the launch of the “Solidarity Call To Action” by the President of Costa Rica and the Director-General of the WHO

The architecture for access to medicines and vaccines, which is already complex to manage in normal times, requires even more structured actions in times of a pandemic by the scale of the demand and the urgency in meeting it. This call for solidarity to bring together the technologies and treatments related to COVID 19 is part of the necessary solution. It complements other available instruments for States to facilitate access to prevention and treatment for the population, including through the use of the flexibilities of the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

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Policy Brief 77, May 2020

COVID-19 and WTO: Debunking Developed Countries’ Narratives on Trade Measures

By Aileen Kwa, Fernando Rosales and Peter Lunenborg

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, developing countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are faced with demands to i) permanently liberalize their markets in health products, and also in agriculture; ii) ban export restrictions in agriculture; and iii) conclude new digital trade rules including liberalizing online payment systems, and agreeing to free data flows. There seems to be a confusion between short-term and long-term responses. For the short-term, governments must take measures needed to address the crisis, including liberalizing needed health products. However, permanently bringing tariffs to zero for the health and agricultural sectors will not support developing countries to build domestic industries. Export restrictions in agriculture cannot be given up. They can be a very important tool for stabilizing domestic prices and for food security. New digital trade rules at the WTO would foreclose the possibility for countries to impose data sovereignty regulations, including data localization requirements that can support their infant digital platforms and industries.

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Research Paper 109, May 2020

Non-Violation and Situation Complaints under the TRIPS Agreement: Implications for Developing Countries

By Nirmalya Syam

While the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provided for the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints to the settlement of disputes in the area of intellectual property (IP), when the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements were adopted in 1994, a moratorium was put in place until WTO Members could agree on the scope and modalities for the application of such complaints. However, for more than two decades, discussions in the TRIPS Council on the subject have remained inconclusive. The biannual WTO Ministerial Conference has granted extensions of the moratorium with regularity. This paper reviews the debate on the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints under the TRIPS Agreement, including the arguments consistently held by two WTO Members that if the moratorium is not extended by consensus, non-violation and situation complaints would become automatically applicable. This paper argues that a consensus decision by the WTO Ministerial Conference is required to determine the scope and modalities and, hence, the applicability of such complaints under the TRIPS Agreement. Even if the moratorium was not extended, the WTO Ministerial Conference should still adopt a decision calling on the TRIPS Council to continue examination of the scope and modalities of such complaints. It also argues that in the absence of an extension of the moratorium on initiating such complaints—and although they would not be applicable—a situation of uncertainty would be created that may lead to a de facto limitation in the use of flexibilities allowed under the TRIPS Agreement.

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Research Paper 108, April 2020

Public Health and Plain Packaging of Tobacco: An Intellectual Property Perspective

By Thamara Romero

In 2018, a World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel ruled that plain packaging of tobacco products was consistent with Australia’s obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and was in the interest of public health. Plain packaging restricts the use of logos, colours and brand images to reduce the demand for and consumption of tobacco products by diminishing their advertising appeal. This paper discusses the intellectual property aspects triggered by the implementation of plain packaging, examines the best practices for its implementation and provides analysis of Australia’s case from the public health perspective. It also highlights the main arguments used in the dispute against Australia and provides practical guidance for WTO Members on implementing measures to protect public health.

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SC Working Paper: Trade-Related Agenda, Development and Equity

Intellectual Property Rights and the use of Compulsory Licenses: Options for Developing Countries

By Dr. Carlos M. Correa

In view of the forthcoming review of the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement, and of a possible revision of its provisions in future WTO negotiations, it seems important that information is available to developing countries on the ways in which compulsory licenses have been provided for and used in developed and developing countries. The purpose of this paper is to provide concrete examples on how compulsory licenses have been provided for in national laws and, in particular, to illustrate the grounds and conditions on which such licenses have been granted in specific instances. The emphasis of the paper is not on the general principles relevant to the matter, but on the ways in which compulsory licenses have been actually provided for or used in order to satisfy diverse public interests. Many of the decisions pertaining to the granting of compulsory licenses in the developed countries may be useful in indicating the options available to developing countries wishing to have adequate legislation at the national level on this matter. The decisions referred to also make it clear that compulsory licensing is firmly rooted in the legal systems of developed countries, including those that seem to oppose that concept in international fora.

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Research Paper 103, February 2020

Eighteen Years After Doha: An Analysis of the Use of Public Health TRIPS Flexibilities in Africa

By Yousuf A Vawda and Bonginkosi Shozi

As we observe the 18th anniversary of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and Public Health, it is appropriate to take stock of intellectual property developments and endeavour to present a comprehensive account of the situation in the African continent in respect of the implementation of TRIPS flexibilities, specifically those regarding access to medicines. This research paper provides an overview of the extent to which selected African countries have adopted legal and policy frameworks with regard to TRIPS flexibilities, examines the actual use of these flexibilities in enabling access to medicines in those countries, and suggests some recommendations for optimising the use of the flexibilities in pursuing public health imperatives.

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Policy Brief 72, February 2020

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.

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South Centre Quarterly Report, October-December 2019

South Centre Quarterly Report, 1 October to 31 December 2019

This Quarterly Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st October to 31 December 2019. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications made and publication/websites/social media metrics.

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Western Indian Ocean Regional Meeting of the HLP on the Sustainable Ocean Economy Report

Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Regional Meeting of the High Level Panel (HLP) on the Sustainable Ocean Economy Report

African countries called for action to address issues that are unique to Africa on fisheries, climate change and ocean health and wealth and discussed an African position in preparation for the United Nations Ocean Conference 2020 and the 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, at the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) regional meeting of the High Level Panel on the Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLP), Mombasa, Kenya, 2-3 December 2019.  Trade ministers should reach agreement in WTO on fisheries’ subsidies, in response to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6 mandate, which calls for States “by 2020, [to] prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiation.” South Centre provided inputs and guided a discussion on the issue of fisheries subsidies.

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Policy Brief 70, December 2019

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

By Danish and Aileen Kwa

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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Research Paper 100, December 2019

Medicines and Intellectual Property: 10 Years of the WHO Global Strategy

By Dr. Germán Velásquez

The negotiations of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (IGWG) (2006-2008), undertaken by the Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO), were the result of a deadlock in the 2006 World Health Assembly where the Member States were unable to reach an agreement on what to do with the 60 recommendations in the report on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property submitted to the Assembly in the same year by a group of experts designated by the Director-General of the WHO. The result of these negotiations was the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (GSPOA) that was approved by the World Health Assembly in 2008. One of the objectives of the IGWG’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action was to substantially reform the pharmaceutical innovation system in view of its failure to produce affordable medicines for diseases that affect the greater part of the world’s population living in developing countries. The intellectual property (IP) rights imposed by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the trade agreements could become some of the main obstacles to accessing medicines. The GSPOA made a critical analysis of this reality and opened the door to the search for new solutions to this problem. Ten years after the approval of the GSPOA, the results are uncertain and poor.

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