Monday, February 20, 2006

Day 1 of WIPO PCDA meeting

Monday, 20 February 2006
Thiru Balasubramaniam

The first meeting of the WIPO Provisional Committee for Proposals Related to a Development Agenda (PCDA) meets from 20 February to 24 February. The morning session commenced at 12:43 PM and broke up at 12:57 PM. The reason for the abbrievated morning session was intense pre-meeting negotiations on electing a Chair for the PCDA. One candidate favored by the Group B countries (mainly industrialized Members) was the Ambassador of Romania. The candidate favored by many developing countries was Ambassador Rigoberto Gauto Vielman. Finally, after much deliberation, the candidate from Romania withdrew from the race. When the morning session convened, Nigeria on behalf of the African Group formally nominated Ambassador Gauto (Paraguay) as Chair and the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan as Vice-Chair. Thailand, on behalf of the Asian Group seconded the nominations; Ambassador Gauto and the Kyrgyz Ambassador were elected unanimously to their respective posts. Ambassador Gauto noted that he was
"[c]ommitted to working in a very open-minded way" He noted that the
PCDA would resume at 3PM with "presentation of new proposals put
forward, then invite substantive discussion of proposals". The importance placed to the Development Agenda discussions was evidenced by the presence of several Ambassadors (Argentina, Chile Morocco, Nigeria and Paraguay to name a few).

Most of the afternoon session was devoted to countries making general statements and introducing their respective proposals.

Austria, on behalf of the European Communities and its 25 Member States and the acceding states of Bulgaria and Romania, asserted that it shared the premise that development related issues could be integrated into WIPO within existing the WIPO Convention and 1974 agreement with United Nations, recognizing WIPO's mandate to facilitate development.

The Austrian delegate emphasized the need to make concrete proposals by concentrating on proposals that were "ripe for harvest". According to Austria, this would help engender trust and cooperation and would ensure that this resulted in an international IPR regime that increased encouragement for foreign direct investment, stimulates economic growth and provide benefits to all.

Thailand, on behalf of the Asian Group noted the importance of public policy objectives in the Millennium Development Goals, e.g. public health, biodiversity, access to medicines, and access to educational material. Thailand stressed that WIPO needed to ensure that its norm-setting activities were consistent with public policy objectives recognized by group. It noted its support for the mainstreaming of the development agenda into WIPO norm-setting activities

Nigeria, on behalf of the African Group, presented its proposal for the Development Agenda. Ambassador Joseph U Ayalogu stated that "[t]echnical assistance should be development-oriented and demand driven. With respect to transfer of technology, the African Group echoed the conclusions of the Report of the UK Commission in Intellectual Property Rights which asserted that
the critical issue in respect of IP is not whether it promotes trade or foreign investment, but how it helps or hinders developing countries gain access to technologies that are required for their development.

Ambassador Ayalogu stressed that the African Group was not against IP protection per se. However, he noted that the Group was of the opinion that any meaningful discussions of IP and development take into account the following:

1. There must be a clear and consistent rational for IP protection

2. There must be an assessment of the costs and benefits of IP protection.

3. IP protection must not be divorced from the aspirations not be divorced from the aspirations of developing and least developed countries for economic growth and development, the acquisition of technological know how, etc.

5. Public interest concerns such as access to knowledge, health and nutrition, agriculture and so forth must be protected.

Pakistan made an intervention on behalf of the Group 77 (G-77) and China. Ambassador Massood Khan noted that the G-77 and China were of the view that the "Development Agenda discussions in WIPO form[ed] an in important milestone". He noted that WIPO, as part of the UN family, had an obligation to prioritize the mainstreaming of development dimension into the core of its program and operational activities. Ambassador Khan reiterated the Doha Declaration adopted at the Second South Summit in 2005 which emphasized that

while developing countries are committed to undertaking their international obligations, these undertakings may impose high costs, and that given the differences in development and the ability of countries to assume obligations, it is imperative that identical obligations are not forced on unequal participants.

Ambassador Khan highlighted the IIM discussions last year which cited the need to make the "affordability and accessibility of essential products like pharmaceuticals, text books and educational software" as "primary examples of areas where such flexibilities need to be either created or made operable, with regard to the IP system."

Ambassador Dumont of Argentina made the intervention on behalf of the Friends of Development (FOD). As mentioned in the FOD proposal, the FOD identified 6 common threads among the 50 specific proposals presented since 2004. The FOD proposal noted this 6 common themes as a means of producing tangible outcomes and recommendations to the General Assembly in 2006. Among the common threads identified was how to

"facilitate access to knowledge generally around the world and
specifically in developing countries for example by means of a Treaty
on Access to Knowledge" given the [g]rowing importance of access to knowledge of protecting and promoting access to the cultural heritage and need to maintain robust public domain through exceptions and limitations.

The Chilean Ambassador outlined his delegation's proposal. He stressed that a public domain was an important source of creativity and a key factor for growth. He cautioned that the public domain could be unnecessarily affected through technological protection measures (TPMs). He warned of a global trend towards increasing exclusive rights and restricting material in public domain. In his elaboration of the importance of complementary systems to and in intellectual property the Chilean Ambassador noted current discussions on an a2k treaty and a treaty on medical research and development (being discussed at the WHO).

The United States made an elaboration on its proposal for a WIPO Partnership Program.

Please see Georg Greve's blog for additional insights.

Thanks to Gwen Hinze and Teresa Hackett for inputs