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TWN Info Service on Trade and WTO Issues  (Dec08/09)
5 December 2008
Third World Network

Trade: No change in positions on GI register/extension, TRIPS disclosure
Published in SUNS #6603 dated 3 December 2008

Geneva, 2 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- Positions among members remain broadly unchanged both on the multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits and on whether these negotiations should be tied to negotiations on extending the higher level of protection currently given to wines and spirits to other products as well as a proposal to require patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic resources or traditional knowledge used in their inventions.

This emerged at a meeting of the Special Session of the TRIPS Council on Monday. The Chair, Ambassador Trevor Clarke of Barbados, called the meeting to inform members about his consultations in respect of a multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits, the mandated subject of the Special Sessions of the TRIPS Council.

According to trade officials, a group of some 110 countries continued to call for a "procedural decision" to negotiate three intellectual property issues in parallel ("parallelism"): the multilateral register for wines and spirits, extending the higher level of protection currently given to wines and spirits to geographical indications of other products, and a proposal to require patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic resources or traditional knowledge used in their inventions (document TN/C/W/52 of 19 July 2008).

They accepted the Chair's position that he does not have a mandate to bring the other two subjects into these TRIPS Council "Special Sessions" and that to do so would require a decision by the members in some other forum.

On the other hand, opponents of the proposal continued to argue that there is no mandate to negotiate the other two subjects; that more technical work is needed on the register; and that at this stage, priority should be given to negotiations in agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA).

Members also received an unofficial document from the EU, explaining its position on the multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits.

According to trade officials, Ambassador Clarke told the meeting that he had consulted members individually and in small groups from 4-20 November and then with a larger group of some 21 members on 21 November.

The Chair said that he heard four principal "calls".

The first two, he said, are within his mandate. They are for the EU to clarify its latest proposal for the register; and members to intensify their discussion of technical issues.

The second two are outside the Chair's mandate, Ambassador Clarke said. They are for the three issues (GI register, GI extension and TRIPS disclosure) to be discussed in parallel; and a decision to be taken on the three issues in December when Ministers come to Geneva to try to conclude modalities in agriculture and non-agricultural market access.

According to trade officials, in the discussion, members on both sides of the debate agreed about the mandate and on intensifying discussions.

The Chair concluded that he would try to call another meeting for this purpose in the next few days.

According to trade officials, the EU distributed an unofficial paper, which it said was aimed at achieving more than a procedural decision, just as the agriculture and non-agricultural "modalities" would be more than procedural.

In the paper, the EU listed a number of revised positions, which it said was a compromise aimed at reflecting the position of the countries on the other side of the debate. The proposal fully respects countries' freedom to use their own legal methods to protect geographical indications, but it envisages a fully "multilateral" register, rather than a "voluntary" one, the paper said.

The EU said that it was willing to reply to questions and participate in "intensified" technical discussions so long as these were not a delaying tactic.

According to trade officials, countries sponsoring document TN/C/W/52 reiterated their call for the three subjects (GI register, GI extension and TRIPS disclosure) to be negotiated in parallel.

Speakers in this group included: the EU, Switzerland, Thailand (which said it could not accept a register that was only for wines and spirits and would discriminate against other geographical indications), Turkey, India, Brazil, China, Nigeria, and Uganda.

Countries in the "Joint Proposal" group continued to oppose "parallelism". Some welcomed the EU's clarification of the register proposal, but said that the technical implications should be discussed along with an examination of how the various proposals would be implemented in each country. Some (Canada and New Zealand) said that they have lists of questions on the EU's clarification.

According to trade officials, the group continued to argue that the talks on the register still need technical clarification before they can be based on a draft text, and that there is no mandate to negotiate the other two subjects.

Several said that they did not see how intellectual property issues can be included in a "modalities" type text. They said that agreement on the register should be part of the final package (after "modalities" in agriculture and non-agricultural market access), known as the "single undertaking".

Speakers in this group included: the US, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, New Zealand, El Salvador, Chile, and Costa Rica.

Hong Kong-China urged members to be constructive. +

 


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