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.
“1 July 2015 is only 200 days away — we will have to think concretely about how to structure our work next year and how to get back to the substance of our mandate,” warned Ambassador Dacio Castillo of Honduras who chairs a negotiation that has been inactive since early 2011 and has only met twice since then (in March 2012 and April 2014).
The talks on the geographical indications register are returning to activity following the breakthrough in the General Council on 27 November. This included agreement to resume work agreed at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference and to set a new deadline of July 2015 to produce a work programme (pdf) for completing the Doha Round negotiations as a whole.
Ambassador Castillo proposed starting with an informal information meeting — rather than a negotiating session — in February 2015. This would include a summary of what had happened up to 2011, as reminder to delegates on where the talks had reached. It could also include information on developments outside the WTO that might have a bearing on the talks.
Several speakers asked for more information on how the information session would be organized so they could consult their capitals. The chairperson said he would consult members on this and invited them to contact him.
The 12 December meeting was an informal negotiations meeting of the full membership, officially an “open-ended” informal “Special Session” of the WTO’s intellectual property (TRIPS) council. Ambassador Castillo reminded delegates that these talks are only mandated to negotiate a multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits and that any change to the mandate would have to be decided in the WTO bodies overseeing the negotiations. He urged them not to repeat known positions but to introduce any new ideas they may have.
Delegations on either side of the negotiation offered no new ideas and said the talks should not return to the substance until a clearer picture emerges on negotiations in agriculture, non-agricultural market access and services.
One group repeated its position that talks on the register should be part of a package that includes two other proposals.
One is to extend to other products the higher level of protection for geographical indications currently given to wines and spirits (“GI extension”, explained here).
The other is a proposal to require patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic resources and any associated traditional knowledge used in their inventions, evidence that they received “prior informed consent” (a term used in the Biological Diversity Convention), and evidence of “fair and equitable” benefit sharing (the “disclosure proposal”, explained here).
Sponsors of the alternative “Joint Proposal” (document TN/IP/W/10/Rev.4 of 31 March 2011) repeated their view that these negotiations should stick to the mandate: to negotiate the geographical indications register and nothing else. They also argued that the weight of numbers does not count since WTO decisions are taken by consensus.
The current version of the draft text on the register dates back to April 2011.
Informal information session: February, date to be announced
Deadline for Post-Bali work programme: July 2015
Chairperson: Ambassador Dacio Castillo, Honduras