Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Update Phase 2: geographical indications

Geographical indications (see also TRIPS material)

See also Phase 1 (food quality). This deals with extending the level of protection currently given to wines and spirits to other products.

One view is that this is a question of market access for agricultural products, which justifies its inclusion in the negotiations. This is because product differentiation is an important feature of competition. It benefits consumers because they are offered more choice with more information about product quality. It also benefits producers, who are able to develop quality products and are free from unfair or misleading competition in markets that import their products, according to this argument.

An alternative view shares the argument, but says this should be negotiated in the WTO’s intellectual property (TRIPS) council. The point is raised in the agriculture negotiations to stress the link: progress in the agriculture negotiations requires progress on this subject in the TRIPS Council, a number of countries say. Some point out that the agriculture negotiations focus on food products, whereas proposed negotiations under TRIPS would cover all products including handicrafts, etc.

Another group of countries opposes discussing the issue in the Agriculture Committee outright. They say it should only be handled in the TRIPS Council.

Papers or “non-papers” from: The EU, and Switzerland.

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The second phase consists of detailed discussions on the many issues raised in the first phase, organized topic by topic. The meetings are largely “informal”, meaning that there is no official record except for chairperson’s summaries presented at the formal meetings. Papers presented so far have not been official WTO documents. Despite the increased complexity, developing countries continue to participate actively.