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

Ambassador Chak Mun See (Singapore)
131. The representative of Argentina said that, in her delegation's view, Article 24.2 as it appeared in the Agreement responded to a reality at the time of the Uruguay Round negotiations and still valid, namely the multiplicity of national systems of protection and the fact that there was no international harmonization in this respect. This fact led to the inclusion of a provision which established that it was necessary to review Section 3 of Part II. With respect to the review required under Article 24.2, she agreed with New Zealand's approach advanced in its document on the matter, which highlighted the principle of territoriality and the rôle of the national standards of the protecting country with regard to what geographical indications were eligible for protection under the Agreement. On the other hand, New Zealand had mentioned the need for discussions to be held in a structured manner covering each and every one of the provisions of Section 3 of Part II. It had been a surprise to her delegation that, in the debate on Article 24.1, it had appeared that some delegations which had, earlier on, asked for a substantive debate now seemed to be reluctant to examine how the obligations under Articles 22 to 24 were being applied. Her delegation agreed with those delegations that had mentioned that the debate on geographical indications was not a North/South debate. The doubts expressed about extension of the product coverage of Article 23 came from different regions of the world and from Members with different levels of development. The arguments that had been put forward in the debate on Article 24.1 as to why it would be necessary to extend the product coverage, in particular those linking the extension issue to further liberalization in the area of agriculture, raised the question as to whether such an extension was actually perceived by some as a protectionist instrument. Many of the points made went beyond intellectual property considerations merely. Solid arguments had been made both in the debate under the various agenda items concerning geographical indications at the present meeting regarding the history of the TRIPS negotiations. Economic arguments had been made regarding the trade impact of an extension of the product coverage of Article 23 could have, in particular, for developing countries; however, many delegations which supported the calls for such an extension had not mentioned any concrete benefits for, in particular, developing countries and least-developed countries that would flow from extension, nor why Article 22 type of protection would be insufficient. In this connection, she looked forward to the paper that had been announced by Switzerland at the present meeting during the discussions on Article 24.1. 132. Continuing, she said that, if the Council would start analyzing the Secretariat summary paper, nothing but a complex discussion was to be expected. The subject of geographical indications was complex. WIPO, in one of its publications, had explained that with the exception of industrial designs, the protection of geographical indications was the most complex one among the categories of intellectual property, with a large variety of concepts and relatively new in the framework of international negotiations. The Secretariat paper clearly demonstrated this. As explained by Mexico, there was no harmonization in definitions and Members had the flexibility permitted by the TRIPS Agreement to establish their own mechanisms of protection. In respect of common names, such as "vin" or "viande de porc", her delegation was not sure what the eligibility criteria were to protect these as geographical indications. There would seem to be a need for specification, particularly since, in other languages, "wine" or "pig meat" could be freely used. She wondered why Members had also provided examples of geographical indications not yet under protection in their systems but still the subject of pending applications. As regards the concerns expressed by some delegations that Article 23 discriminated against certain products, she concurred with what had been said by the United States and New Zealand. Agreeing to Article 23 had been a major concession for Argentina in the negotiations of the Uruguay Round. Argentina had had a systematic interest in the problem of discrimination before, during and after the Uruguay Round. Discrimination still existed in areas of interest to Argentina. The TRIPS Agreement was part of a balance in the framework that had resulted from negotiations in which countries had won and lost at the same time. She expressed support for the document of New Zealand and reiterated her delegation's position that the Council did not have a mandate, at present, for negotiations concerning any extension of the additional protection under Article 23 to products other than wines and spirits.