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Ladies and gentlemen, dear participants,

I welcome you all to the WTO, and offer a special welcome to those who have travelled from far to participate in this seminar today.

We are delighted that you could join us for what will be, for us at the WTO, a truly unique technical assistance activity.  This seminar on Intellectual Property and Knowledge Flows in a Digital Era is a significant initiative for several reasons.

  • Firstly, it aims to respond to the fundamental transformations that technological change has had on trade and on knowledge flows.
  • Secondly, it recognizes that we cannot understand these developments without taking a cross-disciplinary approach. Thus I am pleased to say that this seminar involves collaboration between three WTO divisions I am responsible for - the Intellectual Property, Government Procurement and Competition Division (IPD) as organizer, in partnership with the Trade in Services Division and the Economic Research and Statistics Division.
  • Thirdly, it is a unique activity as it brings in a large number of the world's leading experts in this area, starting with our keynote speaker this morning, Professor Keith Maskus. 
  • Fourthly, this seminar is backed by extensive economic, legal and policy research materials on this subject. We have been drawing this material together to provide an updated foundation for future technical assistance. Your feedback this week will be important for us, as it will help us finalise these materials in the form of a set of capacity building materials for the benefit of developing country officials such as yourselves, both as a tailored website and as a book. Participants have already seen some of this material in draft form in the virtual classroom.

But why do we hold this event today?  We are approaching the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of the WTO TRIPS Agreement. That Agreement was a landmark recognition of the importance of the knowledge component of trade.  Yet in the years since conclusion, digital disruption has utterly transformed the interplay between trade and knowledge.  This radical transformation creates a compelling need to update our understanding of the context for TRIPS rules and the intellectual property system within the framework of trade and development policy.  We need to fundamentally update both our theoretical understanding, and the empirical, factual base we work from. 

This is important, too, because in this period, development policy has laid increasing emphasis on the knowledge component of trade, and has raised practical questions of how developing economies can make best use of the opportunities provided by the knowledge economy: SDG 9, notably, identifies innovation as such as a goal for sustainable development. 

The WTO's technical assistance activities have sought to respond to evolving demand from developing country members for capacity building in these areas, but in a relatively ad hoc way, largely as an adjunct to existing programme structures, and these activities have demonstrated the unmet demand and practical need for more systematic capacity building on an updated base of information.

This demand follows the disruptive effect of technological change which has impacted significantly on the area of trade involving IP rights, and the exercise of policy options under the TRIPS Agreement, opening up new avenues for development as IP in itself becomes a tradable good and IP plays a pivotal role in dispersed international production chains and in facilitating knowledge transfer.  Policymakers therefore confront an entirely new set of challenges integrating TRIPS measures into trade policies that respond to a digitally transformed knowledge economy; these challenges extend to basic capacity to measure and to map the IP dimension of trade, and thus to develop an integrated understanding of how the IP system, and new forms of trading in knowledge, can function in the contemporary international economy to service diverse national development priorities.

This Seminar will systematically review the current legal and policy landscape for trade in knowledge and provide an integrated overview, deploying a selective, yet necessarily broad-based range of cutting edge expertise from internationally renowned economists, lawyers and policy makers. They will examine how to map knowledge flows across borders and the impact of these flows, and then will chart the legal, economic and policy dimensions of such flows.  The seminar will therefore serve to retool and rebase the WTO's technical assistance in the TRIPS area in response to the fundamentally transformed technological and trade landscape. 

 I now introduce to you our keynote speaker, Professor Keith Maskus. Professor Maskus is an eminent Professor of Economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. He was Associate Dean for Social Sciences at the same university from 2007-2013. He has also previously been Chief Economist at the US Department of State and a Lead Economist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank. He is also a Research Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Fellow at the Kiel Institute for World Economics, and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Adelaide. Professor Maskus, you now have the floor.

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