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

Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon (Singapore)
99. The representative of Australia said that, as a signatory to the CBD, his Government had a responsibility, at both the Federal and State levels, to develop frameworks for access to, and utilization of, genetic and biological resources consistent with the CBD. Australia also accepted its responsibility to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of those resources. Such frameworks must also respect indigenous people's special knowledge of that bio-diversity and to provide indigenous people with the choice and means to share their knowledge on fair and equitable terms. In the view of his delegation, there seemed to be very little concrete evidence at this stage that national systems for regulating access to genetic resources and benefit sharing were per se insufficient to deal with bio piracy. However, this did not mean that such evidence might not come to light and he did not mean to preclude further discussion on the issues. 100. He noted that the African Group appeared to have picked up some earlier suggestions made by Australia which focused these issues on Article 29 rather than Article 27 of the TRIPS Agreement. He said that Australia's national experience suggested that the current TRIPS provisions did not and should not create a problem in ensuring that access to materials that were subsequently the subject of a patent application was sourced in compliance with the CBD. Moreover, he said that there had already been a process initiated by the CBD and closely involving WIPO, which was addressing the issue of compliance with CBD arrangements. On this basis, his delegation would continue to encourage further analysis of Members' experiences in implementing both the CBD and the TRIPS Agreement as the most sensible way to move the discussion forward. 101. Furthermore, he indicated that the debate on these issues suggested that, even if there was evidence that national systems did not work effectively, there were other options, short of amending the TRIPS Agreement, that could be used to address the problem. These options included information sharing between patent offices, mechanisms to improve disclosure of relevant information, such as establishment of databases, or proposals such as the one by Switzerland to use the documentation associated with patent applications to disclose the source of relevant genetic resources, provided that such disclosure was not a requirement for patentability. While he considered the Swiss proposal worthy of further discussion, he raised concerns over the suggestion that there was a need for some kind of clarification of the relationship between WTO rules and multilateral environmental agreement rules. In his view, there seemed to be an inherent tension in the Swiss paper which suggested, on the one hand, that there was no uncertainty in the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the CBD, but then suggested more generally that there were uncertainties that needed to be clarified by means of some kind of interpretative statements. He said that it seemed that Members were asked to agree to a solution to an inconsistency problem which did not exist. He also said that his delegation had made its view clear in the Committee on Trade and Environment.