[A2k] Letter to WTO DG: Yemen's Accession

Sangeeta Shashikant ssangeeta at myjaring.net
Wed Dec 4 04:37:47 PST 2013

Letter to The Director-General OF THE World Trade Organization (WTO)
Concerning Yemen¹s
Accession Commitments On Intellectual Property

28th November 2013

Mr. Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo,
Director General
World Trade Organization

H.E. Mr. Shahid BASHIR,
General Council of
the WTO

Dear Mr. Azevêdo,

The undersigned organisations are writing to express concerns regarding
intellectual property commitments
being forced on Yemen as part of its WTO accession package that will be
presented for formal adoption, to the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in
Bali, 3-6 December 2013.

We understand that as part of its accession terms Yemen is required to
implement the WTO-Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual
Rights (TRIPS) by 31 December 2016.  This contradicts Paragraph 18 of the
2012 Accession Guidelines which explicitly
reaffirms ³that the Special and Differential Treatment, as set out in
the Multilateral Trade Agreements, Ministerial Decisions, and
other relevant WTO legal instruments, shall be applicable to all
acceding LDCs from the date of entry into force of their respective
of Accession².[1] <#_ftn1>

Thus paragraph 18 of the 2012 Accession Guidelines automatically entitles
acceding LDCs to transition periods granted
pursuant to Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement.[2] <#_ftn2>  Article
66.1, is one of the most important
Special and Differential provisions contained in the TRIPS Agreement, as it
grants LDCs the flexibility they need to overcome their socio-economic
constraints and to develop a viable technological base.

On 11 June 2013, the TRIPS Council adopted a decision pursuant to Article
66.1 of the Agreement, to extend the LDC TRIPS
transition period until 1 July 2021. According to this Decision, LDCs
not be required to apply the provisions of the Agreement, other than
3, 4 and 5, until 1 July 2021². The Decision also allows further extensions
beyond 1 July 2021.

The Decision also expressly recognises the right of WTO LDC Members to
make full use of the flexibilities provided by the
TRIPS Agreement to address their needs. This includes the option of rolling
back/undoing TRIPS consistent intellectual property (IP) protections.
Requiring Yemen to be TRIPS compliant by the end of 2016 is a violation of
the 2012 Accession Guidelines that were
adopted by the WTO General Council and that recognized the entitlement of
acceding countries to Special and Differential Treatment provisions that
underpin the WTO architecture.

For countries to benefit from full TRIPS compliance certain basic
socio-economic conditions should exist in particular a
significant market, sufficient capital, qualified and skilled personnel at
firm level, innovation-oriented entrepreneurs, as well as a solid
and technological base. As an LDC, these conditions obviously do not exist

Yemen is one of the poorest countries inthe Arab region, with very slow
progress towards attaining the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) with 32% of the population living in severe
It has extremely weak infrastructure[3] <#_ftn3>, and underdeveloped
scientific and innovative capacities. Yemen faces massive
challenges in ensuring its population has access to education, health and
basic services.[4] <#_ftn4> The economy is also caught in a jobless slow
growth cycle leading to stagnant per
capita incomes and rising levels of unemployment. Moreover, Yemen is
facing a
humanitarian crisis with widespread hunger, chronic malnutrition and health
problems as the country emerges from a period of civil unrest.

Given this situation, it is unconscionable for the WTO to require
Yemen to fully implement the TRIPS Agreement by 2016. It is also damaging
WTO¹s credibility that it is failing to abide by its own rules, in
paragraph 18 of the 2012 Accession Guidelines.

Thus we urge you to take immediate measures to rectify the situation by
issuing a statement confirming
that the TRIPS Council Decision adopted on 11 June 2013 is applicable to
and it is under no obligation to implement the TRIPS Agreement until 1 July
2021 or later if a further extension is granted pursuant to Article 66.1
of the
TRIPS Agreement. 

We also urge you to ensure that all LDC countries that are in the process
of acceding to the WTO are
accorded transition periods consistent with TRIPS Council decisions
Article 66.1. 

In conclusion we stress that any attempt to weaken or to refuse LDCs
rights that they are entitled to will damage the credibility of the WTO and
will show that the multilateral trading system does not work in the
of the poorest and most vulnerable populations of the international
community.  Even worse, such a condition will confine Yemen to
technological underdevelopment and to potential overpayment
for IP-protected commodities for years to come thereby imposing unnecessary
hardship and human rights deprivations on some of the poorest people in the

For the list see 

[1] <#_ftnref1>            WT/L/508/Add.1

[2] <#_ftnref2>            Article 66.1 of the
TRIPS agreement states: ³In view of the special needs
and requirements of least-developed country Members, their economic,
and administrative constraints, and their need for flexibility to create a
viable technological base, such Members shall not be required to apply the
provisions of this Agreement, other than Articles 3, 4 and 5, for a
period of 10 years from the date of application as defined under paragraph
1 of
Article 65.  The Council for TRIPS
shall, upon duly motivated request by a least-developed country Member,
extensions of this period.²

[3] <#_ftnref3>    
Electrification rate: 40% of the population (2009); 12 person out of 100
have access to the worldwide network (2010); 50 out of 100 people have
telephone lines and mobile subscribers

[4] <#_ftnref4>                   Only 16% of the population has a

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