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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter
16 WORK PROGRAMME ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
1543.   The 1998 Work Programme (WP) on e-commerce mandates the TRIPS Council to examine and report on the intellectual property issues arising in connection with electronic commerce. We support inclusion of this item as a standing item on the agenda of the TRIPS Council, similar to the practice in all other Council/Committees mandated to discuss issues under the work programme. Among other aspects, the work programme mandates the TRIPS Council to examine the issue of 'new technologies and access to technology'. As the digital sphere undergoes profound transformation, becoming quintessential for almost every domain of day to day life, bridging the digital divide through access to digital technologies becomes all the more important. 1544.   It is also important to explore how developing Members could make better use of e-commerce to expand trade and investment opportunities through transfer and dissemination of new technologies to businesses including SMEs in developing and least developed country Members, to help them better integrate into Global Values Chains. We encourage all Members to share their experiences in this regard.
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