[Ip-health] Inside U.S. Trade: Punke Rejects Continuing Doha After WTO Ministerial, Favors Plurilaterals

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Oct 22 04:30:22 PDT 2015


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In a separate development, the U.S. has blocked a request by LDCs to seek
an indefinite waiver from the obligation under the Agreement on Trade
Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) to protect pharmaceutical
patents and undisclosed clinical test data until they graduate from LDC
status.

Punke said on Oct. 21 that the U.S. had not reached an agreement with the
LDCs but that he is engaged in “constructive discussions” with those
countries. In his role as the lead negotiator, Punke late last week offered
the LDCs a 10-year extension, which they initially rejected.

The TRIPS Council, which met last week, was supposed to reconvene on Oct.
19, but that meeting was postponed. Public Citizen, Oxfam, Knowledge
Ecology International and three other non-governmental organizations urged
President Obama in a letter sent Monday to accept the LDC proposal, calling
the U.S. offer of a 10-year waiver “meager” and the U.S. position
“egregious.”


--
Inside U.S. Trade

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Punke Rejects Continuing Doha After WTO Ministerial, Favors Plurilaterals

Posted: October 21, 2015

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke on Wednesday (Oct. 21) made
clear the U.S. does not want the December World Trade Organization
ministerial to endorse the continuation of the Doha round as a single
undertaking, after it has failed to produce results since it was launched
in 2001.

Instead, the United States is hoping that “there is an effort by all
members [of the WTO] to go beyond that architecture that has not proven a
success, and we are particularly hopeful of that because we can see other
ways of doing things are producing results,” he said at a session of the
Global Services Summit.

These other ways involve plurilateral agreements such as the Information
Technology Agreement (ITA), the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA), and
the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), according to Punke. The U.S. sees
the plurilaterals as “one pathway” to making the WTO a “vibrant, dynamic”
organization again, he said.

Punke's comments put on the record a longstanding position that has placed
the U.S. at odds with developing country WTO members, which insist that
trade negotiations following the Nairobi ministerial must be conducted
under the Doha round framework.

This fight is coming up in the context of drafting a potential outcome
document for the Nairobi ministerial. In particular, one of the three
deliverables being discussed for the Nairobi ministerial is a commitment to
end export subsidies. A Geneva source said that if countries were to agree
a deal on export competition, they would want some assurances that the
other areas of domestic agriculture subsidies and market access also be
addressed. All of these three areas were part of the Doha round agriculture
negotiations.

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In a separate development, the U.S. has blocked a request by LDCs to seek
an indefinite waiver from the obligation under the Agreement on Trade
Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) to protect pharmaceutical
patents and undisclosed clinical test data until they graduate from LDC
status.

Punke said on Oct. 21 that the U.S. had not reached an agreement with the
LDCs but that he is engaged in “constructive discussions” with those
countries. In his role as the lead negotiator, Punke late last week offered
the LDCs a 10-year extension, which they initially rejected.

The TRIPS Council, which met last week, was supposed to reconvene on Oct.
19, but that meeting was postponed. Public Citizen, Oxfam, Knowledge
Ecology International and three other non-governmental organizations urged
President Obama in a letter sent Monday to accept the LDC proposal, calling
the U.S. offer of a 10-year waiver “meager” and the U.S. position
“egregious.”

Punke said business representatives view plurilateral initiatives as a way
of getting something done in Geneva. He said he rarely heard from U.S.
business representatives in his first two years as the U.S. ambassador to
the WTO, but that this changed when the focus shifted to plurilateral
negotiations.

Last month, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo cited plurilateral
negotiations as one of two ways to reinvigorate the negotiating arm of the
WTO in an "innovative" manner, though he did not categorically rule out
large trade rounds.

Azevedo said plurilaterals should be negotiated by a critical mass of
countries, with the benefits extended to all WTO members. The second option
he cited would be to have all WTO members participate in negotiations for
new rules, but create built-in flexibilities that would allow members to
opt out of obligations if they lack the capabilities.

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