244. Introducing document IP/C/W/457, the representative of Zambia, speaking on behalf of the least-developed country Members of the WTO, said that, after careful consideration, these Members regarded 15 years to be the minimum period to be requested. After this period, they should hopefully be in a position to implement TRIPS, although they would continue to need help, by way of technical assistance and capacity building, from their cooperation partners. It was clear that any transitional period less than that would a mean a death sentence to many of their people. The exemption under Article 66.1 had been granted in recognition of the economic, financial, and administrative constraints faced by LDCs that had prevented them from observing immediately all the obligations set out in the TRIPS Agreement. The exemption further reflected the fact that LDC Members had special needs and requirements, including the need for flexibility to create a viable technological base.
245. The socio-economic situation of the countries in question had changed very little over the past ten years to enable them to comply with their obligations under the TRIPS Agreement, and that the difficult situation of LDCs was widely recognized by the international community. In particular, he referred to the 2004 Least-Developed Country Report by UNCTAD according to which "if past trends persist, the least-developed countries are likely to become the major locus of extreme poverty in the world economy by 2015". LDC Members had competing needs against grave financial inadequacies which had made it difficult for them to meet several obligations, including compliance with the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. Their economies were at a stage of development that required focused and immediate attention in fundamental areas such as health, education and food security. Even in these areas, LDC Members were already confronted with critical human resource problems, and financial and administrative constraints.
246. He said that it was widely recognized that a viable technological base was a fundamental requisite for the implementation of an effective intellectual property system that would support national development efforts. LDCs had an inadequate technological base to support an effective system of IPR protection and had barely developed institutional linkages that would support implementation of obligations under the TRIPS Agreement. They, therefore, required additional time to formulate and implement IP laws and policies in appropriate ways to achieve their national priorities and needs, including creating a viable technological base to be able to benefit from IP protection.
247. The compliance with TRIPS provisions required alignment of national laws with various fields, such as civil and criminal procedures in courts, administrative procedures, intervention of police and customs authorities. Most of their economies were faced with human resource constraints to administer, implement and enforce IP legislation. Upgrading existing institutional framework would require extensive financial resources, an issue beyond their current national budgets. Several studies, including a study by the World Bank, had shown that the process of becoming TRIPS compliant, i.e. drafting legislation, setting up/upgrading appropriate institutions and providing sufficient human resources and enforcement mechanisms all involved substantial costs. He referred to the 2002 World Economic Prospects report of the World Bank, which stated that if training costs were included, a comprehensive upgrade of the IPRs regime in the poorest countries would require an expenditure of $1.5 to $2 million plus recurrent costs. He added that other studies had estimated even higher costs.
248. He said that these weaknesses and vulnerabilities constituted special circumstances requiring LDCs to have "maximum flexibility in the domestic implementation of laws and regulations in order to enable them to create a sound and viable technological base". This was clearly articulated in the TRIPS Preamble, as well as in Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement.
249. In concluding, he expressed his hope that, during this transitional period of 15 years, developed countries would make greater efforts and undertake more commitments to provide incentives to enterprises and institutions in their territories for the purpose of promoting and encouraging technology transfer to LDC Members in accordance with Article 66.2 of the TRIPS Agreement. These efforts would go a long way to assist LDCs to create a viable technological base. This commitment by developed countries had been reaffirmed in paragraph 11.2 of the Doha Ministerial Decision on Implementation-Related Issues and Concerns that emphasized its importance and mandatory nature.