WTO Public Forum: “Are Agreements Occurring Outside the Multilateral Process Helping or Hindering Multilateralism?”

Engaging in public dialog and providing information on the value of intellectual property (IP) is an important part of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC)’s IP Delivers campaign. That’s why we were excited to organize a panel last Wednesday, September 26, at one of the largest annual policy discussions in Geneva: the World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum. Attended by more than 4,000 policy makers, academics, journalists, and non-governmental organizations, the Public Forum is an excellent opportunity for us to describe how IP Delivers Jobs, Innovation, Safety and Access.

This year, the WTO asked presenters to answer the broad question, “Is Multilateralism in Crisis?” To provide some insights on that question, the GIPC partnered with the International Centre for Sustainable Development (ICTSD) to organize a panel entitled, “Are Agreements Occurring Outside the Multilateral Process Helping or Hindering Multilateralism?

The panel – moderated by Antony Taubman, the Director of the Intellectual Property Division at WTO – presented two distinct views on the role of regional trade agreements in the multilateral system. Trade and industry voices presented by the GIPC and academic analysis discussed the possible role of the WTO TRIPS Council in regulating trade agreements presented by the ICTSD.  Panelists invited by the GIPC focused on important elements from regional and bilateral agreements – such as IP chapters – which have been critical in informing a way forward in the multilateral process.

Fernando de Mateo, Mexican Ambassador to the WTO, underscored the significance of regional and bilateral trade agreements in providing critical inputs to the development of the multilateral system, including in areas such as IP protection. De Mateo noted that past regional agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have informed the standards developed in the multilateral system. He also was quick to add that because of the deadlock in the WTO Doha Round, important issues of the 21st century like those debated in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) are necessarily debated in these regional agreements and not in the WTO.

Ambassador De Mateo’s comments were followed by two representatives of the private sector, who also described the importance of IP protection to the creation of innovative and creative products within the content and medicine sectors.

Bertrand Moullier from the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) found that without robust IP protection, not only will films have difficulty being distributed, but they may not receive the funding that allows them to hire the dozens of actors, writers and producers required to create the film in the first place. Alexander Triebnigg, president of Novartis Brazil described the positive effect that good IP rules in Brazil had on Novartis’s decision to invest in a new production facility; however, he also noted that recent changes in Brazilian IP law had created uncertainty which would make recommending investment today much more difficult.

The views provided by these representatives at the WTO suggest that a commitment to strong IP protection is critical in order to promote innovation, jobs, and access to new technologies and content. 21st century challenges are being addressed in bilateral and regional frameworks, and it is clear that the multilateral trade system will need to adopt these changes as well in order to continue providing a sustainable environment for the development of creative and innovative products.

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