THIS NEWS STORY is designed to help the public understand developments in the WTO. While every effort has been made to ensure the contents are accurate, it does not prejudice member governments’ positions.
The official record is in the meeting’s minutes.
Rather than focus on how to work within the mandate for creating a register for wines’ and spirits’ geographical indications, the consultations were dominated by the discussion of linkages with other intellectual property issues, and with the rest of the Doha Round, he told a brief informal meeting, before members formally appointed a new chairperson.
Members therefore were “hesitant” to engage in the negotiations at this stage, and did not see that engagement would be possible, he reported. Ambassador Suescum was reporting on his consultations with members in March (see text issued subsequently below).
Geographical indications are place names (sometimes also words associated with a place) used to identify the origin and quality, reputation or other characteristics of products.
The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) gives geographical indications for wines and spirits a higher level of protection than for other products (see Article 23) — they have to be protected even if the way they are presented by producers in other geographical areas would not confuse consumers about their origin. The agreement also prescribes negotiations on creating a multilateral register for these products, talks that are now part of the Doha Round.
Delegations are divided about whether the proposed register itself should have some legal impact, but also about whether it should be tied into two topics known as “GI extension” and “TRIPS and CBD”. Some countries link these issues; others object, arguing that the issues are separate and that the negotiations should stick to the mandate of a register for wines and spirits.
“GI extension” is a proposal to extend to other products, the higher level of protection currently given to wines and spirits. Some members have proposed that the register would be expanded to include the other products coming under “GI extension”.
“TRIPS and CBD” includes a proposal 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” (a term used in the UN Biological Diversity Convention or CBD), and evidence of “fair and equitable” benefit sharing.
There were no comments from delegations and the informal meeting lasted about five minutes.
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The chair’s report on his consultations
From document TN/IP/22.
(This report also contains the substance of the informal report circulated as JOB/GC/64 at the General Council meeting of 14 March 2014. The decision to set up a “post-Bali” work programme is in document WT/MIN(13)/DEC, paragraph 1.11.)
1. This report on my consultations with interested delegations in the context of the Special Session of the Council for TRIPS is submitted on my own responsibility and is without prejudice to the positions of delegations and to the outcome of the negotiations.
2. At the informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) held on 6 February 2014, the Director General shared with delegations his request that the Chairs of Negotiating Groups start a dialogue with Members on issues that may be able to be taken forward, bearing in mind six parameters as a guide for discussions. These six parameters were, in summary: (1) preserving development as a central pillar of Members’ efforts; (2) focusing on doability, balancing realism and ambition, with no-one being asked to do the impossible; (3) recognising that the issues are interconnected so that they must be tackled together; (4) staying creative and open minded; (5) being inclusive and transparent; and (6) maintaining a sense of urgency.
3. Following this request by the Director-General, I held consultations with interested individual Members and groups on 10 and 11 March 2014, following an open invitation extended to all Members to meet with me. Some delegations also contributed comments by telephone and e-mail. I also held an informal open-ended meeting on 1 April 2014.
4. In these consultations, I asked Members for their views on how to take forward the work of the TRIPS Special Session, and on how to reflect this process in a post-Bali work programme on the remaining Doha Development Agenda issues. In their responses to these questions, I requested that Members focus on the mandate of the TRIPS Special Session as set out in the first sentence of paragraph 18 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration (WT/MIN(01)/DEC/1), which reads as follows:
“With a view to completing the work started in the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Council for TRIPS) on the implementation of Article 23.4, we agree to negotiate the establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines and spirits by the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference.”
5. From these consultations, it seems that there have not been substantive changes in Members’ negotiating positions in this group, as they are documented in the previous chair report TN/IP/21 and reflected in the Draft Composite Text that was circulated to Members as an Annex to that document.
6. Notwithstanding my emphasis on the mandate of the TRIPS Special Session, most of the Members that participated in these consultations concentrated on linkages between the work of the Special Session, and TRIPS implementation issues (TRIPS/CBD and GI extension) outside the purview of this group, as well as with the wider post-Bali process. Most of the Members participating indicated that, as a condition for work on the multilateral GI Register in the TRIPS Special Session, they would like to see parallelism with work on these other processes and issues. Other Members rejected linkages between these processes and issues, and would need assurances that the mandate of the TRIPS Special Session would be respected before agreeing to restart work in this negotiating group. The negotiations were described as complex and difficult by both sides of the debate, even within the mandate of the TRIPS Special Session, and most Members taking part in the consultations seemed hesitant to engage actively in negotiations until the overall scope and balance of the post-Bali work programme becomes clearer.
7. As regards the substance of negotiations or the method of working of the TRIPS Special Session, no novel ideas were offered on how to advance the work of this group. A few Members felt that technical work could progress on the basis of the 2011 Draft Composite Text with respect to issues — such as notification format, or special and differential treatment provisions — inasmuch as this work did not touch on the question of mandate.
8. I briefed Members along the lines of this report at the informal meeting held on 1 April 2014. Members made no further comments or proposals regarding the work of the Special Session.
9. It is my impression that, under current circumstances, Members are not ready to take forward substantive work on the GI Register as a priority. Finding a solution to Members’ very different concerns with respect to the negotiating mandate and linkages to other WTO work continues to appear central to permitting substantive work in the TRIPS Special Session to resume.
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Formal meeting: new chairperson appointed
Ambassador Dacio Castillo of Honduras was confirmed as the new chairperson of the TRIPS negotiations. This was the only item on the agenda, and the meeting also lasted just over five minutes.
Next: to be announced