TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Dec07/04)

10 December 2007

The following article was published in SUNS dated 6 December 2007 and is reproduced here with permission.  Any reproduction requires the permission of SUNS (

Best regards
Martin Khor

No shift in positions on GI extension, TRIPS/CBD
Published in SUNS #6381 dated 6 December 2007
By Kanaga Raja, Geneva, 5 Dec 2007

WTO Deputy Director-General Rufus Yerxa told members at an informal consultation this week that the ground has not shifted much with respect to the issues of Geographical Indications (GI) extension and the TRIPS/CBD relationship.

He said that Director-General Pascal Lamy will continue to report on these two items in broad terms to the General Council (the next meeting is scheduled for 19-20 December).

A series of consultations on these issues are being held by Yerxa on behalf of the Director-General under the rubric of "implementation" in the Doha Development Agenda.

In the latest consultation open to all members on 3 December, trade officials said that two groups of members submitted proposals for the two issues to be part of the "modalities" decisions to be negotiated early next year.

According to trade officials, other members continued to oppose bringing the two subjects - extension of the higher level of protection for GIs beyond wines and spirits, and amending the TRIPS Agreement to include disclosure requirements - into the Doha negotiations.

On the issue of GI extension, the "Friends of Geographical Indications" circulated a short text to be included in "the horizontal modalities decision".

According to trade officials, the group proposed that the WTO General Council accept the text, which would make the "extension" issue formally part of the Doha Round negotiations and the "Single Undertaking" that ties all the issues together in a single package.

The aim of the negotiations would be to amend the TRIPS Agreement so that the higher level of protection currently given to wines and spirits is extended to all products. The negotiations would also ensure that various exceptions (Article 24) would also apply, according to the text.

The group is composed of the EU, Guinea, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Macedonia, Madagascar, Morocco, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand and Turkey.

According to trade officials, support also came from Barbados and China.

Trade officials said that Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina, the US, Chinese Taipei, Chile, Costa Rica and South Africa continued to oppose the move.

Technical discussions should continue because a number of questions remain unanswered, including why the regular level of protection (Article 22) is inadequate, according to these countries. They were also concerned about the implications arising from the current negotiations on a multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits.

Norway said that it can accept the text being submitted.

On the TRIPS/Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) issue, the developing countries that are calling for the TRIPS Agreement to be amended submitted a text proposing that this issue also formally become part of the negotiations.

They want to amend the TRIPS Agreement so that patent applicants are required to disclose the country of origin of genetic resources and traditional knowledge used in the inventions, evidence that they received "prior informed consent", and evidence of access and "fair and equitable" benefit sharing.

According to trade officials, their latest document proposes that members agree to amend the TRIPS Agreement to require disclosure and to start negotiating a text.

This proposal would also be included in "the horizontal modalities decision".

The group was represented by Brazil and India and included Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Thailand, the African Group, the least-developed countries and some other developing countries.

Trade officials said that at the 3 December consultation, several members of the group explicitly linked this subject with the GI proposal.

According to trade officials, Argentina, the US, Costa Rica, Japan, Chinese Taipei, New Zealand, Canada, Korea and Australia continued to oppose the proposal. While they accept that the issues of bad patenting and benefit sharing have to be tackled, they argue that amending the TRIPS Agreement is not the right way to do it.

Deputy Director-General Yerxa observed that the ground has not shifted much and said that the Director-General will continue to report in broad terms to the General Council. +