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WTO NEWS: 2002 NEWS ITEMS

TRIPS COUNCIL SPECIAL SESSION 8 MARCH 2002
Two-phase negotiating programme launched 

Click for Doha Development Agenda gatewayWTO members have embarked on two-phase programme for completing negotiations on a multilateral registration system for geographical indications for wines and spirits. They did so on 8 March 2002 in the first “special session” of the TRIPS (intellectual property) Council, the Doha Development Agenda’s forum for reaching consensus agreement on this by the Fifth Ministerial Conference in 2003.

The TRIPS special sessions are chaired by Ambassador Eui Yong Chung of Rep. of Korea.

Background and explanation
Details of the Doha Development Agenda       > Doha mandate explained
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> 5–7 March 2002 TRIPS Council regular meeting:
Members start work on Doha agenda items

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THIS IS AN UNOFFICIAL SUMMARY OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MEETING, PREPARED BY THE WTO SECRETARIAT’S INFORMATION AND MEDIA RELATIONS DIVISION TO HELP PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING. THE ONLY OFFICIAL RECORD IS IN THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING.




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The first phase involves further discussion in a debate that began in the TRIPS Council in February 1997 (under Article 23.4 of the TRIPS Agreement). Chairperson Chung described this as a “more structured and engaged discussion” than before. In the second phase, which chairperson Chung described as a final negotiating phase, members would try to work on a single draft based on their various proposals, and to end with consensus.

Members agreed broadly on the terms of the two phases, although they placed different emphasis on the time needed for each stage. Some called for a longer initial phase of study and discussion, lasting at least until the end of the year. Others said that since the TRIPS Council has already discussed this for several years, members should move more swiftly into the final negotiating phase.

Ambassador Chung proposed that they should tentatively try to have in place a single draft document (even if it included options reflecting different opinions) either towards the end of this year (2002) or early next year (2003), depending on the exact dates of the Fifth Ministerial Conference.

Some members said they were not ready to accept this and other proposed “soft target dates”, or that they envisaged a draft next year rather than this. Others said having some form of target dates would help them assess these negotiations in comparison with other negotiations in the WTO.

WTO members have accepted Mexico’s offer to host the ministerial conference some time in 2003, but no date has been fixed yet. Four TRIPS Council’s special sessions on this subject have been scheduled for 2002 — 8 March, and tentatively, 28 June, 20 September and 28 November.

Although these negotiations are part of the Doha Development Agenda, they have a different deadline. Ministers agreed in Doha in November 2001 that the talks should end at the next ministerial conference, and not by 1 January 2005, the deadline for almost all other negotiations.

The talks on the multilateral register began in 1997 under Article 23.4 of the TRIPS Agreement. This calls for negotiations to set up “a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines eligible for protection in those Members participating in the system”, wording that has led some to characterize it as a “voluntary” system. At the Singapore Ministerial Conference in 1996, ministers added the possibility of including spirits.

Proposals submitted in earlier TRIPS Council meetings adopt two different approaches. One, from the EU and supported by a number of other countries (including a supplementary proposal from Hungary), would presume that registered geographical indications are protected in all WTO members except in those that successfully challenge the terms on the grounds that they are generic in their countries. 

The other from Canada, Chile, Japan and the US, and supported by a number of other countries, sees the proposed system as a database that would assist members in deciding whether to protect specific terms in their territories.

> to download these proposals, see below

The 8 March discussion also reflected this difference, with some procedural points argued forcefully because of differences of opinion over what the registration system should be and do. The US presented its latest papers — a comparison of various proposals and a list of issues. (The EU had previously submitted its own comparison.)

The TRIPS Council’s “regular” meeting on a range of other issues, many on the Doha Development Agenda, was on Tuesday to Thursday, 5–7 March.      > more ...

Meetings tentatively scheduled for the rest of the year are:

  • 28 June (following regular meeting on 25–27 June)
  • 20 September (following regular meeting on 7–19 September)
  • 28 November (following regular meeting on 25–27 November)

 

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  • Proposals for a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications (Art.23.4) (searches for document code IP/C/W/*; document title 23.4 or "notification and registration")     > search    > help

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