TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb11/01)
8 February 2011
Third World Network

Work continues on draft text on GI register for wines and spirits
Published in SUNS #7078 dated 1 February 2011

Geneva, 31 Jan (Kanaga Raja) -- Work on producing a single draft text for setting up a multilateral register for Geographical Indications (GIs) for wines and spirits has continued with the Chair of the negotiations circulating draft text on "registration" of GIs, the second of six key aspects of the system.

The draft text on the issue of registration of GIs was circulated by the Chair of the Special Session of the TRIPS Council, Ambassador Darlington Mwape of Zambia, at an informal meeting of the full membership on 27 January.

The single draft text for setting up the multilateral register is being assembled piece-by-piece; and it now has two sections - one on registration, and a slightly revised one on notification of GIs. The aim is to come up with a more or less complete single draft text towards the end of March.

The draft on notification, the first of six key areas, was first circulated by the Chair on 13 January. (See SUNS #7067 dated 17 January 2011.)

The draft text on the multilateral register follows a six-point sequence, namely: Notification -- how a term would be notified and which Member would do it; Registration -- how the system would be run and the WTO Secretariat's role; Legal effects/consequences of registration -- in particular, any commitments or obligations on Members arising from a term's registration; Fees and costs -- including who would bear the burden; Special treatment for developing countries (special and differential treatment); Participation -- whether the system is entirely voluntary, or whether a term's registration would have some implications for all WTO Members.

According to trade officials, the draft text on registration was produced from consultations that the Chair had held earlier in the week involving representatives of the three groups that have tabled proposals in the negotiations. The four-page draft reflects all three positions, leaving most of the differences unresolved, added trade officials.

[The first of the three proposals is by over 100 sponsors including the EU, the African Group and the ACP (TN/C/W/52), which proposes modalities on GIs - the multilateral register for wines and spirits, and extending the higher level of protection beyond wines and spirits - and TRIPS "disclosure" (patent applicants being asked to disclose the origin of genetic resources and traditional knowledge used in their inventions). The second is the "joint proposal" (TN/IP/W/10/Rev. 2) whose sponsors including the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Argentina have proposed a voluntary database. The third proposal is by Hong Kong-China - TN/IP/W/8 - which aims to bridge the differences.]

In his report to the membership, the Chair reiterated that the composite text is a "work in progress" that "emanated exclusively from the members themselves, not from the chair".

In order to help the consultations on drafting to progress smoothly, the Chair outlined some "rules of the road", including deadlines for the participants to submit their drafts and an assurance that if the deadlines are missed, participants can propose additions to the "composite" text during the consultations.

According to trade officials, the new section on "registration" of GIs deals with the next steps after notification: how the body administering the register would proceed after a geographical indication has been notified; how it would handle registration; how it would manage the system; how countries could update their registrations; and how registrations could expire or become invalid.

The options in square brackets continue to reflect the different proposals of the three groups.

Among the major differences reflected in square brackets are on the legal implications/consequences in other countries when a Member registers a term (which will be discussed next). Members also differed over whether the register should only be for wines and spirits as prescribed under the present mandate, or whether the system should cover geographical indications for all products, said trade officials.

The Chair told negotiators that their time "could be spent more usefully on issues that lie clearly within the mandate. In other words - and since we are in road metaphors anyway - in our group, we should concentrate on building the road from Doha to Geneva as instructed by Members through the TNC (Trade Negotiations Committee), rather than worry about how many lanes the road is going to have."

He also urged them to save time by working among themselves to prepare for his consultations and to try and bridge their differences.

In his report to the membership, the Chair said that he had held group consultations from 24 to 26 January with a number of sponsors of the proposals on the table, namely, the "joint proposal", the proposal contained in TN/C/W/52, as well as the one by Hong Kong-China.

With respect to the progress made in the drafting group, the Chair said that the drafting group began by revisiting the section on notification in the draft composite text. A number of square brackets were eliminated here and a few delegations took the opportunity to amend the text they were supporting in this section.

After a thorough examination of that part, said Ambassador Mwape, the group moved on to the draft composite text on registration, which had been prepared on the basis of the textual proposals Members had submitted by the deadline of 20 January, announced at the last open-ended meeting. In that section, too, Members worked hard to remove brackets and to amend text to better reflect their respective positions.

Although they ran into a number of roadblocks during the consultations, the Chair said that at the end of the day, the group managed to progress on these two areas of notification and registration.

Although the group was not able to move on to the next element of Legal Effects/Consequences of Registration, which the Chair had hoped to at least begin working on, he however reported that he had received textual proposals on that element from Hong Kong-China and from the Joint Proposal Group by the deadline.

With regard to the group's paper on notification and registration, the Chair emphasized two important points of principle of the organization that apply in particular to the work the group has undertaken this week: First, the composite text has emanated exclusively from Members themselves, and not from the Chair; Second, this composite text represents work in progress and is without prejudice to Members' positions on the overall outcome of the negotiations. Members are working on the understanding that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and that Members may revert to any issue of the text at any time.

Regarding the paper that he circulated, the Chair said "let me first note with satisfaction that the square brackets are now attributed to their supporting Members. I am glad to say that this is a truly member-driven process, and the paper reflects exclusively the sometimes divergent views of different Members - both in the text and in the title - of the draft composite text."

The Chair reminded delegations that all Members have agreed to engage in this negotiating process in the Special Session without encumbering it by discussions on the mandate. "Although I have received repeated assurances in that regard, the group is still losing substantial amounts of time discussing language that might implicate the mandate."

"While I am but a facilitator of the decisions and the progress that you yourselves can make on the road towards a negotiating text on the GI Register for wines and spirits - I must nonetheless point out that this time could be spent more usefully on narrowing differences on issues that lie clearly within the mandate. In other words - and since we are in road metaphors anyway - in our group we should concentrate on building the road from Doha to Geneva as instructed by Members through the TNC, rather than worry about how many lanes the road is going to have."

"Again - getting to the current composite text has not been easy and this process continues to be fragile and delicate - and this is doubly true as we approach one of the stumbling block elements which is Legal Effects/ Consequences of Participation," said the Chair. He urged all Members again to give this process some time to stabilize.

The Chair also spelled out "the rules of the road" for the next session:

-- A draft composite text for the elements that will be taken up for the first time at the next session will be prepared on the basis of Members' textual proposals that are submitted by the set deadline. The purpose of this practice is to save time for the drafting group, which can then start work directly from the draft composite text. It goes without saying that Members can of course still make comments and proposals after that deadline - however, these will then be reflected as amendments in the composite text.

This means that, once a part of the draft composite text has been discussed in the drafting group, new textual proposals on that part will no longer be integrated by the Secretariat but should be made in the drafting group. To illustrate that point, said the Chair, if delegations want to make new textual proposals on the part of registration, which has already been worked on by the group, these can be made Coram Publico (i. e., openly in front of everyone) in the drafting group and will be reflected in the draft composite text as an amendment.

-- With regard to the deadline - in order to keep the process moving forward, and in view of the little time Members have left before the formal meeting, the Chair suggested the following: A draft composite text for the next two elements, namely, Legal Effects/Consequences of Registration and Fees and Costs will be prepared on the basis of proposals that delegations send in by 2 February 2011.

"Let me repeat that the deadlines are set in order to encourage delegations to submit text ahead of the drafting group sessions, but they do not pre-empt further textual proposals or comments later. They do, however, mean that delegations cannot refuse engagement on the element in question simply because they have no submitted text by the deadline. They are free to make their proposals in any of the meetings of the drafting group," the Chair told the Membership.

According to trade officials, delegations that spoke mainly focussed on procedural issues such as the deadline for input into the next draft, and asked for the Chair's text to be distributed. Differences over whether the version of the register proposed by the "W/52 sponsors" would be too costly and burdensome were also briefly debated by the delegations.

The next open-ended meeting is scheduled for the week of 8 February. +