147. The representative of the Secretariat said that the work of the Secretariat on the process was very much guided by the directions in the letter from the Chairman of the General Council and the background note IP/C/W/543. The core objective of the work on timeliness and completeness of notifications and other information flows continued to be the goal of making that material available in a more user-friendly way, and thus to make it more straightforward for Members to prepare and submit their notifications, in short to reduce the burden on Members. This included both the documentary burden on Members to fulfil their notification obligations and making it easier to consult the information in a way that corresponded more directly with the actual needs of stakeholders. On a number of the substantive agenda items before the Council, the Secretariat continued to hold discussions with delegations very informally who expressed some uncertainty about how to obtain even some of the basic tools, i.e. some of the basic notifications. This underscored the continuing need for that work.
148. This was an area where the very considerable expense involved in processing those materials could be addressed, in response to the recommendations for savings and more efficient use of resources in the area of documentation recently made by the budget committee and adopted by the General Council. The focus was on a number of official documents. Some of the lengthy documents involved considerable effort, both in their preparation and in their handling, distribution and translation.
149. He stressed that the exercise was simply about practical document management. It was being undertaken entirely within the parameters already set by the Council's own decisions and the TRIPS Agreement and it continued to follow directly the outline set out in document IP/C/W/543. The work continued to review the body of existing notifications, a collection of over 15 years' worth of heterogeneous documents, of immense potential practical use, but at the same time presenting a major information management challenge. As it worked through the outline already reported to the Council, the increasing focus of the Secretariat was at present on examining ways of using appropriate information technology tools to improve the usability and the accessibility of those data to reduce wasteful and expensive paper-based approaches, where appropriate. In addition, improved accessibility and usability of data would ensure that it could contribute to the broader effort across the Secretariat towards a more integrated holistic approach to managing notifications and other trade policy information. In this regard, he referred to the Integrated Trade Intelligence Portal (I-TIP), announced at the margins of the 2011 December Ministerial Conference.
150. An immediate need was to address the backlog of notified material that was not yet available in readily accessible text-searchable form. The Secretariat was currently working on a stocktake of all notification materials provided since the Council had commenced its work, so as to measure exactly the scale of the task of making that material more readily accessible and useable, in line with the directions set by the letter of the Chair of the General Council. The next step was to consider how to provide more user-friendly web tools for accessing and using the information contained in notifications, building on the pilot work already reported to the Council. Consideration should further be given to making use of such tools as the common portal established with WIPO for the submission of legislative texts and exploring further cooperation along those lines, given the overlapping responsibilities between the WTO and WIPO that were recognized in the TRIPS Agreement itself.
151. Other avenues that could be explored in the area of practical document management, rather than determining new notification approaches, might include (i) facilitating the submission of texts for regular notifications, other than legislative texts, through a notification tool; and (ii) a continued focus on suggested standard notification formats to facilitate both the preparation of notification materials and indeed their handling and dissemination. The Secretariat would seek to consult with delegates and other users of that information through informal workshops and technical assistance activities and aimed to develop appropriate tools that corresponded to the actual needs of actual stakeholders, particularly delegations. The work was very much at an early stage and further details would be reported to subsequent meetings of the Council as the preliminary work continued.
152. Notification materials were now routinely used to inform the Secretariat's technical cooperation activities, in response to the demand from Members for information at a very practical level and in a factual way about the approaches taken by Members in relation to various areas of IP law and policy. Further technical assistance activities would concentrate on more effective use of notification processes, so as to advance the objectives set out by the General Council concerning the timeliness and completeness of notifications under the TRIPS Agreement as well as user-friendly access to and use of those materials.