60. The representative of Australia believed that there was an information deficiency in this area and there was a lot of learning to be done about existing national systems and about existing international/regional systems. His delegation had found the Article 24.2 review very useful in this regard as well as the papers produced by the Secretariat. What the review process had underlined was the existing diversity of approaches to the protection of geographical indications and he believed that that was consistent with the letter of the TRIPS Agreement, which referred to legal means for the protection of geographical indications as well as the general principles which Members were free to choose, appropriate to their own national systems. Some amount of concern about some proposals relating to the multilateral register approach was, therefore, quite fundamental in that it suggested that a national registration scheme was, in effect, mandatory. He pointed at problems of principle and practical problems, especially for some of the developing countries in the Pacific region with whom Australia was in a dialogue, who needed to implement their TRIPS obligations but would not be in a position to put resources into establishing independent registers for geographical indications. Neither would these countries be in a position to work through such registration systems within the time-frame envisaged to decide whether or not a geographical indication notified at the multilateral level should be given absolute protection or not. Of course these problems should not detract from the fundamental common interest, which was the effective protection of geographical indications at the national level. In discussing the multilateral arrangement, it had to be borne in mind that the ultimate objective was to facilitate effective protection at the national level. Effectiveness also included an appropriate use of resources and this was the reason why an unduly burdensome approach would be unacceptable and inappropriate. The most difficult matter in determining the scope of protection of geographical indications at the national level was simply obtaining information about geographical indications in other jurisdictions. It was difficult to determine what geographical indications were considered protected in other jurisdictions and the very basis of protection of geographical indications under the TRIPS Agreement was the original protection in the country of origin. As a facilitating step, he supported the use of the mechanism to generate a much-needed flow of information about the content and range of the protection of geographical indications in other jurisdictions for the guidance and the information of authorities, especially those who were introducing systems ab initio.
61. Regarding the suggestions made by Hungary, another representative of Australia said that Australia entirely supported the comments of New Zealand that it seemed premature to be suggesting a role for WIPO when Members themselves had not agreed on what registration system there should be and that it was inappropriate to ask the two Secretariats to do any work, at the present stage, on how the system should be administered. Any suggestions for going down a particular path could prejudice the debate Members were currently having. As regards the suggestion that, somehow, Article 23 was not being reliably and consistently implemented by certain Members, she said that the Article 24.2 review might help elucidate the unclear point made by Hungary. The idea of separating the issue of product coverage and what type of system should be established was really just a kind of administrative tool for the Council's work, allowing Members to focus on the types of obligations being put forward under respective systems. It did not mean that Article 23.4 had suddenly changed and suddenly included other products. Such a significant change to the existing TRIPS obligations could not be simply introduced by the TRIPS Council. Some delegations had proposed an extension of the product coverage elsewhere in the context of future negotiations and that was where the discussion should take place. Australia remained opposed to an extension of Article 23 so that it would cover products other than those it currently did. Her delegation's preference was to have a simple and voluntary system that provided vital information and it wished to reiterate its concerns about any system that required Members to lodge individual objections to specific terms. Although it was not clear how detailed such an objection should be, if there was going to be an opposition procedure as proposed, it could be assumed that opposition would require detailed cases to be made out, i.e. Members would not only have to go through a resource-intensive exercise for every single term but would also only have a year to do it, it remaining unclear what the liability or vulnerability under the DSU would be if a Member would not protect a wide range of terms. From Australia's point of view, she said, Members should focus on the establishment of a system that both represented the current TRIPS obligations and a truly workable solution.