TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr08/04)
22 April 2008
Third World Network

Trade: TRIPS Chair to prepare report on register for wines and spirits
Published in SUNS #6454 dated 14 April 2008

Geneva, 11 Apr (Kanaga Raja) -- The Chair of the Special Session of the TRIPS Council informed members on Friday that he is preparing a factual report on the negotiations on a multilateral register for Geographical Indications (GIs) for wines and spirits for the forthcoming "horizontal process" on the Doha Round.

According to trade officials, Chairman Ambassador Manzoor Ahmad of Pakistan had called the informal meeting of the Special Session to report to the full membership on his recent consultations with some key players in the negotiations, as well as to outline what he is planning to cover in his paper.

Trade officials said that the Chair's paper will be a summary of positions in the negotiations, which is currently focussed on creating a multilateral system for notifying and registering Geographical Indications for wines and spirits.

(The other issue under the Doha mandate - extending the higher level of protection beyond wines and spirits - is being discussed separately.)

According to trade officials, differences among members on the issue of the multilateral register were reflected in the discussions Friday on what the Chair's paper should try to do.

Ambassador Ahmad told members that he would place the issues discussed into three categories:

-- Where fundamental differences remain: i. e. participation and legal effects or consequences of a registration.

-- Where there is some convergence: on notification and the mechanics of registration.

According to trade officials, the Chair said that he would try to identify the convergence instead of simply reflecting proposals members have made.

-- Where there has been less discussion (because the topics are linked to the areas of fundamental differences): these include the duration of registration; procedures for modifying and withdrawing registrations; various costs and administrative burdens; the impact on developing and least developed countries; arrangements for review; contact points; and special treatment for developing countries.

Ambassador Ahmad said that he is considering whether or how to include the links that some members have made to other intellectual property issues, including extending to other products the enhanced protection now given to wines and spirits, and issues related to biodiversity.

During the discussions, the EU underlined the political and economic importance of GIs, adding that after 13 years of negotiations, progress was long overdue.

The EU said that it could not agree on just having a database - the result has to help prevent misuse of GIs and unfair competition.

(A joint proposal by several countries that includes Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Chinese Taipei and the United States has suggested the setting up of a voluntary system where notified GIs would be registered in a database.)

According to trade officials, the EU stressed that the Chair's paper should reflect options in a way that would facilitate the work of Ministers (presumably in the horizontal process). It reiterated that the result should apply to all members.

Turkey and Switzerland supported the EU position.

New Zealand expressed concern that some elements in the draft Chair's report go beyond the mandate of the group, and urged further discussion. Australia stressed that the report should be factual with a summary of proposals from members.

According to trade officials, the US was of the view that the Chair has no mandate to produce a negotiating text. It added that proposals to raise trade protection with extra-legal effects are not acceptable.

The US further said that the mandate is clear that the system would be voluntary. It criticized members who want to "rope in" other members who do not want to participate in the scheme. It said that there was no need for Ministerial guidance, and any attempt to get that would not succeed.

Japan said that there is no convergence in the group on key issues, such as on the legal consequences of an agreement. Canada said that the issue is not ripe for a decision by Ministers.

Chinese Taipei urged more technical discussions. Korea also said that this subject should not be taken up in the horizontal process.

According to trade officials, India said that it could support a purely factual report with no mention of options, and reiterated the linkage between this subject and the discussion on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It said that like other developing countries, it would like to extend GI coverage to products other than wines and spirits.

Brazil said that the register should not have legal effects to member's legal jurisdiction. China stressed the linkage to the CBD issue, adding that GIs should be extended to all products.

Argentina said that the issue of GI register is not ripe for decision-making. Ecuador supported voluntary participation, and stressed that the parallelism between GIs and the CBD is "fundamental".

Chile said that there has been some movement by the EU but the bloc's position was still beyond the mandate. Colombia and Costa Rica expressed concern about making the registry mandatory, and opposed appending text for a decision in the Chair's report.

Mexico stressed the need for greater transparency and urged that the draft Chair's text be made available to all delegations.

Hong Kong-China reiterated its proposal (submitted in 2003) that participation in the GI register should be voluntary but that there would be legal effects on the participating members. It said that this proposal meets the requirements of the mandate.

The EU said that 27 members-plus-two consider the EU proposal to be within the mandate. It said that the only thing clear is that this is not clear, and so Ministers should clarify. It was of the view that obstructive attitudes will obstruct the modalities and the Doha Round.

According to trade officials, the EU urged a change in mind-set to work constructively towards an agreement, and that after 13 years of negotiations, it's about time that the Chair puts up a text for the final phase of the negotiations.

Chairman Ahmad said that he plans to issue his report likely towards the latter part of this month. +