TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (June09/02)
2 June 2009
Third World Network

TRIPS Chair urges "more substantive" talks on GI register
Published in SUNS #6705 dated 25 May 2009

Geneva, 20 May (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the Special Session of the TRIPS Council on Wednesday urged members to move from "understanding" each others' proposals to focussing on "more substantive" discussions in order to take forward the negotiations on a multilateral register for geographical indications (GI) for wines and spirits.

At an informal meeting of the Special Session, Ambassador Trevor Clarke of Barbados called on members to avoid continuing with questions and answers designed simply to understand each others' proposals.

According to trade officials, he reiterated a warning that he made at a formal meeting in March that members should not be complacent at a time when negotiations in other Doha Round subjects appear to be going through a lull.

When modalities in agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) are agreed, the Doha Round could enter its short last phase with intellectual property badly behind in its own subject, he cautioned.

Ambassador Clarke's call to move from "understanding" to "substantive" discussion echoed a comment from Switzerland.

(The EU had formed a coalition of over 100 countries that sponsored a paper - TN/C/W/52 - which covers the negotiations on the register together with two other subjects -- extending the higher level of protection currently given to wines and spirits to other geographical indications and amending the TRIPS Agreement so that patent applicants using genetic resources, traditional knowledge, or both, in their inventions are required to disclose where these came from. When the EU formed the coalition, it modified its earlier proposal, allowing the issues to be explored in an exchange of questions and answers, both orally and in writing.)

According to trade officials, a large number of questions about the section of document TN/C/W/52 dealing with the register have now been answered.

At the informal meeting, supporters of the rival "Joint Proposal" (TN/IP/W/10/Rev. 2) argued that in order to balance the debate, the next formal meeting on 10 June should focus on questions and answers about their paper.

(Speakers for the joint proposal included New Zealand, Canada, the US, Australia, Japan, Korea, Argentina, and El Salvador.)

According to trade officials, the EU argued that this would be pointless since the "Joint Proposal" is largely unchanged since it was first tabled in 2002, and had been discussed in most of the seven years since then, including questions and answers in writing.

Canada, one of the sponsors of the "Joint Proposal", argued that focussing on this paper would be appropriate since the context had changed as a result of the EU's modified position.

The EU said that since the "Joint Proposal" was unchanged, it had no new questions to ask, but it would not oppose a discussion.

The Chairperson said that his preference would be for members to focus on the issues. That would include asking questions about each others' proposals, but the negotiations need to move forward, he said.

At the informal meeting, the EU summarized its replies to some of the latest questions. These included the question of whether a particular name would have priority over another when two or more are similar, for example, if two countries have regions with the same name. The EU replied that the register would accept both without judging whether one has "priority" - that would be up to each country's own national system to decide.

Among the questions raised in this meeting by the supporters of the "Joint Proposal" was a call for the EU to supply a comprehensive proposal, filling in all details, such as, on what is needed when a term is notified and registered. +