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

Ambassador C. Trevor Clarke (Barbados)
European Union
5. The representative of the European Communities1 said that his delegation had high expectations for this area of the negotiations which had now been going on for fifteen years and which were a fundamental part of any DDA deal. The objective of the DDA was to increase trade, in particular in agricultural commodities, and in that context the very specific nature of GIs and the need to facilitate their protection became even more pressing. The European Communities, as part of a coalition of 108 Members, had made it clear that by the time of modalities, the three TRIPS-related issues, namely, the GI register, GI extension (extension of Article 23 protection to products other than wines and spirits) and TRIPS/CBD (relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity), would have to be advanced to a level of precision that would allow Members to have an exact understanding of the value of any deal at the level of the Single Undertaking. He recognized that this presented a challenge, as there were strongly held opposing views which would have to be accommodated. He thanked the Chair for his report, which he considered an important contribution that both captured and structured the key elements of the debate in an excellent manner, and defined some of the goalposts required for progress. 6. He said that, as reflected in the report, the European Communities, together with the other co-sponsors of communication TN/C/W/52, had given an in-depth oral explanation of their register proposal, which was the result of intense negotiations and compromises achieved over many years and represented a balanced adjustment of its position on all the three TRIPS issues. His delegation attached the utmost importance to taking into consideration the reservations of other Members regarding previous proposals and, by allowing for significant flexibilities on the register, had made an important contribution to achieving a proposal capable of drawing support across the board. In his view, the report clearly captured the status of the issues at stake, and made some suggestions on how to advance the negotiations. The report, just as the previous Chair's report had done, again identified the issues of participation and legal effects or consequences of registration as the core issues. He said that there was widespread agreement that these gateway issues needed to be resolved if negotiations were to be brought to a successful conclusion. That was why his delegation strongly believed that some ministerial guidance would be required at the time of modalities, at least on these issues, in order to move forward in the subsequent negotiations. Without such a breakthrough, Members risked spending considerable time going over these key questions without any progress being made. 7. The Chairman’s report also included some proposals that his delegation was willing to explore further, bearing in mind the Chair's comments that the register should be useful and meaningful. His delegation considered that this was an objective shared by all Members, and one which should guide their reasoning, and on which they had undertaken to engage constructively in their discussions. The issue of the legal effects or consequences of registration was pivotal. The Chairman suggested in his report that their work should focus on "an obligation capturing the realities highlighted by Members regarding how domestic authorities would treat information" on the register. Furthermore, the Chairman considered that further negotiations were required to address the issue of guidelines for any such obligation. The European Communities wished to emphasize that for the register to be meaningful it should not merely be limited to reflecting current practices of consulting information. It should not be merely a database. While a database could be informative, specific guidelines on how Members should use the information on the register to facilitate the protection of GIs on their national territory would have to be agreed. Negotiations would have to dig deeper into this issue for Members to make progress. 8. His delegation felt that the report identified the key issues and provided a helpful structure that paved the way for constructive further work on the basis of its clear suggestions. He wished to emphasize that his delegation had departed from their comfort zone many years ago, and had moved substantially from its initial position. As in any negotiating process, his delegation would continue to show some flexibility in accommodating the views of all Members in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome. He said that the proposal on the table had strong support from two thirds of the Membership, which should carry some weight in the discussions. His delegation stood ready to contribute to the future work of the Special Session, but believed that the key gateway issues had to be addressed at the time of modalities in order to achieve a successful outcome as part of the Single Undertaking. Without any progress on the gateway issues, he said it would be very difficult to achieve a successful conclusion in the context of the DDA negotiations. He emphasized that this would create a serious problem for his delegation and other Members of the alliance with regard to progress on the other TRIPS issues of TRIPS/CBD and GI extension. In thanking the Chairman for his valuable work in this area, the representative of the European Communities commended him for the important contribution he had made to their discussions in the meetings of the Special Session and for the excellent manner in which he had managed the difficult and lengthy negotiating process.
The Special Session took note of the statements made.