Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

Ambassador Chak Mun See (Singapore)
99. The representative of Argentina said that, with regard to the Chairperson's proposal, Argentina was not opposed to the holding of informal consultations concerning the relevant provisions for geographical indications. In fact, until now, the Council had always held such consultations before each meeting. However, her delegation was concerned over the content of the Chairperson's proposal, which covered the handling of two items, one regarding the discussion of document IP/C/W/204 and the other regarding the initiation of a structured review process of national experiences with regard to the operation of the provisions of Section 3 of Part II of the Agreement. The documents submitted by Australia and New Zealand, which had been submitted under Article 24.2 and not under Article 24.1, had been included under the first item of the proposal together with document IP/C/W/204 without an indication of substantial differences in the underlying matter they addressed. In Argentina's view, this proposal favoured a conception of the structure of the discussion not supported by all Members. Differing views on this matter had repeatedly been expressed in successive Council meetings and informal consultations. Moreover, it was not clear under which provisions these items would be discussed. In her delegation's view, this was not irrelevant. Further, Article 23.4 had been conspicuously ignored. Her delegation therefore reserved its right to prepare its comments on document IP/C/W/204 and other documents submitted for the consideration of the Council which had not been circulated sufficiently in advance for her delegation to be able to analyse them carefully and prepare its comments in time for this meeting. With regard to Article 23.4, she wondered whether it should be understood that the discussions under this provision had been postponed and, if so, whether a consensus had been reached on this. Her delegation would be grateful for clarification of the reasons for the omission of Article 23.4 in the Chairperson's proposal. In the light of these considerations, she requested that, if it was agreed that official consultations should be held, this be done pursuant to the structured method of working followed until now in the meetings of the Council, i.e. on the basis of each of the built-in agenda provisions relating to geographical indications as reflected in the formal agenda of the Council. She pointed out that, despite the fact that several delegations had requested at the previous Council meeting that the usual agenda structure be retained, the agenda of the informal consultations which had been conducted before this Council meeting had been designed according to different parameters. In view of the differences of opinion on this issue which had existed until now and which, in her delegation's view, had not been resolved in the current meeting, Argentina believed that a decision should not be taken in advance as to the content of eventual consultations. Neither should the content of the discussions, irrespective of whether they took place immediately before or some time prior to the Council's meetings, be steered in any particular direction, since it was clear that a consensus had yet to be reached on what that direction should be. She associated her delegation with the statements made by, for example, Mexico, Chile, Canada and New Zealand. She expressed her delegation's surprise at comments made calling for a "pragmatic approach" and against "narrow or legalistic interpretations". Her delegation shared the concern of developing countries with regard to the existing imbalances in the WTO Agreements, but was of the opinion that the subsidiary bodies did not have the authority to redress such imbalances within their own areas of responsibility. Argentina believed that there were two ways of rectifying the existing imbalances: either by recourse to the specific provisions concerning the amendment of WTO Agreements, or by a new round of negotiations. For all of these reasons, and as her delegation had already pointed out in the informal consultations, Argentina would like to see the Council concentrate its efforts on fulfilling its existing and outstanding obligations, i.e. the negotiations concerning a multilateral system of notification and registration for wines and the review of how Members had implemented their obligations under Section 3 of Part II of the Agreement. Her delegation would ask Members to refrain from distracting the attention of the Council to issues outside its express terms of reference under Articles 23.4, 24.1 and 24.2, by trying to include new obligations into the system or new products into certain existing obligations. Argentina believed that the Council did not have the mandate to negotiate on broadening the protection under Article 23 for geographical indications in respect of wines and spirits to other products, or to include other products in the Council's negotiations under Article 23.4.