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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter (South Africa)
1537.   As this is the first time we intervene on this agenda item, we thank the delegation of South Africa for their effort to ensure this item is part of the standing agenda of the TRIPS Council. We share the view on the need to reinvigorate the mandate of the Work Programme on electronic commerce, among others, in the TRIPS Council. 1538.   We underline that the Council's work in 1999 acknowledged the need for further study to understand the novelty and complexity of the intellectual property issues arising in connection with electronic commerce. That statement is never been truer as we are now seeing significant technological advancement from the time of our last work undertaken in 1999. The present context clearly provides a greater urgency to ensure a more thorough studies are undertaken. 1539.   My delegation has great interest in understanding this issue. The interplay between intellectual properties protection and the continuing inventions of digital technology, such as big data, artificial intelligence, and 3-D printing, could bring significant effect, both to the public policy objectives and the attainment of sustainable development goals. 1540.   We are also following the debates on the impact of high tech innovation on the economy, social order, and public policy. The way big-tech companies shape the social, economic and political issues bring interest on how we should balance the intellectual properties protection in the context of public policy objectives, which could differ from Member to Member. 1541.   At this point of time, we would like to learn more from other Members on these pertinent issues, which hopefully could become good practices and lesson learned. We could probably also make compilations of practices at the national level as the basis of further study of the Work Programme on ecommerce mandate.
101. The Chair recalled that the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce mandated the TRIPS Council to examine and report on the intellectual property issues arising in connection with electronic commerce, including protection and enforcement of copyright and related rights, protection and enforcement of trademarks, and new technologies and access to technology. In the General Council Decision of 10 December 2019, Members had agreed to reinvigorate the work under the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, based on the existing mandate. The decision foresaw structured discussions "based on all traderelated topics of interest brought forward by Members, including LDCs".
102. The other bodies that were directly mandated by the Work Programme – the Council for Trade in Services, the Council for Trade in Goods, and the Committee on Trade and Development – had retained this item on their regular agenda. In the TRIPS Council, the item had been taken up repeatedly since 1999, with some significant gaps, but Members had not agreed to treat this as a regular agenda item. More recently, there had been intermittent reference to, and discussion of, the item based on ad hoc agenda items in 2017 and 2018 and, most recently, at the last Council meeting on 30 July 2020.
103. During the consultations held in September 2020, several delegations had signalled their interest in re-engagement on this matter, including on discussing national digital policy efforts and the issue of access to digital technology. Some Members had encouraged delegations to provide proposals and submissions in advance of the meetings, echoing the General Council Decision's reference to "topics of interest brought forward by Members". Considering this feedback, she had proposed the item of electronic commerce, again, for the agenda of the present meeting in order to provide an opportunity to discuss how the Council should discharge its mandate under the Work Programme in the future.
104. She was under the impression that Members had brought forward a number of topics, both during the September 2020 consultations and at Council's meeting on 30 July 2020, on which the Council could have structured discussions, as mandated by the Work Programme, if Members were interested to pursue them. If this was the case, the TRIPS Council might wish to keep this item on the regular agenda, as was the case in the other regular bodies mandated by the Work Programme and establish a structure for its discussions, in order to respond to the Ministerial mandate in this regard. She invited Members to share any thoughts on the substance of the discussions on electronic commerce and on how to treat the item on the Council's agenda in the future.
105. The representatives of Chad, on behalf of the LDC Group; China; Bangladesh; South Africa; Tanzania, on behalf of the African Group; the United States of America; the European Union; Indonesia; Australia; and India took the floor.
106. The Council took note of the statements made.
IP/C/M/96, IP/C/M/96/Add.1