World Trade Organization (WTO)
WTO Doha Round Bulletin
Week ending 10 December 2004 (Issue 2004/43)
At the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services (22 November to 3 December), El Salvador tabled its initial offer in the WTO services negotiations. This brought the total number of offers made in the negotiations to 49, covering 73 countries (the EC covers all 25 member states of the European Union). However, more than 30 developing countries are yet to table an initial offer, despite the looming May 2005 deadline for offers to be exchanged.
At the meeting, Australia joined with 15 other WTO Members, including the US and EC, in tabling a statement that called for Members to engage much more actively in the services negotiations. The small number of offers, combined with the low quality of many of them, has been hindering progress in the negotiations, which rely on Members making voluntary commitments to liberalise aspects of their services markets.
Australia has committed to developing an improved offer on services liberalisation by May. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been holding domestic consultations with interested parties over the last few months.
The services negotiations will resume in Geneva from 7 to 25 February 2005.
The Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs) met in Special Session in Geneva on 30 November and held a regular meeting on 1-2 December.
The Special Session was dedicated to the issue of a system for protecting geographical indications (GIs) for wine and spirits. WTO Members are divided over how to design and manage such a system, and particularly over whether participation in a notification scheme should be compulsory and what legal effects it should have. The November meeting did not narrow the divide between these positions. The Chair of the TRIPs Council will continue to consult with Members informally in an effort to reach agreement.
The TRIPs Council also met in regular session on 1-2 December. Among the issues considered was genetic resources. Discussion focussed on whether the TRIPs Agreement should be changed to require patent applicants to disclose information related to the origin or source of intellectual property, as a condition of patentability. A number of papers were presented and the TRIPs Council will return to this issue at future meetings.
The TRIPs Agreement and public health was another subject of discussion. In 2003, WTO Members agreed to allow some countries to import generic versions of pharmaceuticals still under patent, in the interests of public health. The agreement was implemented in the form of a waiver of Member's obligations under the TRIPs Agreement, which would expire once the Agreement was amended permanently. The target date for an amendment is 31 March 2005.
At the December meeting, the Africa Group proposed an amendment to the TRIPs Agreement on public health. However, in its current form, the proposal did not gain the support of all Members and will need to be considered further. The Chair of the TRIPs Council will undertake further informal consultations on the issue before the next meeting, scheduled for 8-10 March 2005.
13-14 General Council
13-14 Dispute Settlement Body
13 Negotiating Group on Rules - Regional Trade Agreements
15 Trade Policy Review Body - Switzerland/Liechtenstein
15 Working Party on the Accession of Vietnam
16 Committee on Government Procurement
16 Negotiating Group on Rules
16 General Council
17 Trade Policy Review Body - Switzerland/Liechtenstein
17 Committee on Agriculture - Special Session
17 Dispute Settlement Body
24-31 End of year close
Trade Policy Section
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This bulletin is issued by the Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It summarises key WTO Doha Round-related activities over the past week.