TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov11/03)
21 November 2011
Third World Network

LDCs table proposal on TRIPS for MC8
Published in SUNS #7261 dated 16 November 2011

Geneva, 15 Nov (Kanaga Raja) -- The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) on 15 November tabled a proposal on extending the current deadline of 1 July 2013 for them to implement the World Trade Organization's (WTO) TRIPS Agreement.

The proposal has been submitted for the upcoming eighth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC8) taking place in Geneva from 15-17 December 2011.

According to trade officials, the original deadline for the LDCs was end-2005.

Following a request from the LDCs in October 2005, the TRIPS Council on 29 November of that year decided that LDCs shall not be required to apply the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, other than Articles 3,4,5, until 1 July 2013, or until such a date on which they cease to be a least-developed country Member, whichever date is earlier.

According to trade officials, this decision did not apply for the case of patents for pharmaceutical products, whereby the 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health extended the compliance period for LDCs to 2016.

According to trade officials, the TRIPS Council held an informal consultation on
15 November, at which the LDC proposal, titled "Elements Paper on the Extension of the Transition Period under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement", was tabled.

The LDC proposal (IP/C/W/566) recognises that Least Developed Country Members continue to face serious economic, financial and administrative constraints in their efforts to bring their domestic legal system into conformity with the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, and as such the continued relevance of the previous request made for an extension of the transition period under Article 66.1.

It also takes note of the challenges faced by the majority of Least Developed Country Members to submit their priority needs for technical and financial cooperation under the Decision of 29 November 2005 and the lack of resource mobilisation to support the individual priority needs identified by the Least Developed Country Members that have made their submission under the same decision.

The proposal recalls the commitment by Developed Country Members to provide enhanced technical and financial cooperation in favour of Least Developed Country Members to assist Least Developed Country Members in implementing the TRIPS Agreement and develop a viable technological base in line with their special needs and requirements.

According to the proposal: "In view of the above, Recognise the need to further extending the transition period in favour of Least Developed Country Members; and

"Instruct the TRIPS Council to take a favourable decision in this regard and report thereon to the WTO ninth Ministerial Conference to be held in December 2013."

According to trade officials, while it is the TRIPS Council that has the authority to decide on extending the deadline, the LDCs want the ministers (at MC8) to make a political statement instructing the TRIPS Council to "take a favourable decision" on extending the deadline and report to the next ministerial conference.

The LDCs are not proposing that the ministers specify how long the extension should be. That would be left to the TRIPS Council, added trade officials.

The decision governing the present extension included requirements for the LDCs to identify their priorities for technical assistance in intellectual property protection, for developed countries to respond effectively, and for the WTO, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and other agencies to strengthen their cooperation on technical assistance and other issues, trade officials explained.

In presenting the proposal at the informal consultation, Bangladesh (the group's general coordinator) and Angola (its TRIPS coordinator) noted that only six countries have submitted their priority needs -- Sierra Leone, Uganda, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Tanzania and Senegal.

According to trade officials, those voicing support for the proposal for a ministerial political signal were: China, Australia, Mauritius, Tanzania, Canada, Ecuador, Norway, New Zealand, Brazil, Cuba, India, Chile, Egypt, Hong Kong-China and Turkey.

Some of them linked this to their support for a broader outcome on LDCs from the Ministerial Conference. Some stressed that any political signal should not pre-empt the future discussion in the TRIPS Council, said trade officials.

On the other hand, the United States, the European Union, Switzerland and Japan said that they need more time to consider the proposal, with some saying that they need a fuller assessment of the state of play.

According to trade officials, the EU added that it also supports a broader outcome for LDCs from the Ministerial Conference, for example, on cotton or duty-free, quota-free market access for LDC exports.

According to trade officials, following the presentation of the LDC proposal on 15 November, the TRIPS Council will meet in formal session on 17 November if further consultations indicate a consensus on the move.

This will mean that the proposal can be put on the agenda of the General Council meeting taking place on 30 November-1 December, and then get forwarded to the Ministerial Conference. The issue would then return to the TRIPS Council for a more detailed discussion and possible decision on whether or not to extend the deadline before it expires in mid-2013, said trade officials.

Bangladesh apologized to delegations for submitting the proposal so late. +