Free trade agreements at the regional and bilateral
level are becoming the new road to advance trade liberalization.
These treaties are often one component of a larger political
effort to deepen economic and political relations between countries.
They also serve as a mean to lock bilateral and regional trading
partners into particular commitments that reflect the multilateral
negotiating goals of the stronger partners.
The EU and EFTA have been active in engaging
in bilateral and regional trade agreements with developing country
partners. These agreements have placed different emphases on
IP issues and most likely their models will become more aggressive
in certain areas such as geographical indications and trade
marks, copyrights, UPOV like plant variety protection, and increased
enforcement. Currently at the forefront of attention are the
so called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) which basically
included African Caribbean and Pacific (ACPs) countries.
In order to make the negotiations of the EPAs
more manageable, the ACP and other countries involved have divided
themselves in six regions: (i) the Economic Community of West
Africa (ECOWAS); (ii) Central Africa (Communauté Economique
et Monétaire de l'Afrique Centrale or CEMAC); (iii) Common
Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); (iv) The Southern
African Development Community (SADC); (v) the Caribbean Forum
(CARIFORUM); and (vi) the Pacific Group.
Concerns about IP sections in EPAs
Gradually EPAs are replacing the Cotonou Agreement
and shifting cooperation of non-reciprocal based relations to
trade-based reciprocal type of relations between the EU and
some of its trade partners. Implying that not only the EU provides
duty-free access to its markets for ACP exports but ACP countries
will also provide duty-free access to their own markets for
EU exports with some exceptions to the Least Development Countries.
While EPAs might offer important market access
opportunities in developed countries a number of experts have
expressed concerns that they might include some TRIPS-plus provisions.
Such provisions could reduce opportunities to use flexibilities
and exceptions that have been designed to safeguard certain
public interest objectives and for LDCs, remove any developmental
benefits from the extension of the TRIPS transition period.
In this regards EPAs raise many negotiating and implementation
challenges regarding policy coherence and maintenance of flexibilities
left in those agreements.
Objectives of the dialogue
The objective of the workshop jointly organised
by CAFOD, CIEL, ICTSD and QUNO is the following:
to provide a platform for a strategic discussion
between relevant stakeholders on relevant IP trends in EPAs
negotiations and subsequent implementation;
to generate a deeper understanding of new
IP obligations in the new generation of EPAs;
to explore implications of new IP standards
in EPAs on marketing of local products, biodiversity and
traditional knowledge, and access to educational materials;
to identify potential offensive and defensive
interest on ACPs and other countries involved in EPAs.
In this context key intellectual property scholars,
ACP and other countries representatives involved in EPAs negotiations,
representatives from relevant IGOS and civil society negotiators
were invited to hold presentations, exchange views and to share
their knowledge on challenges that new IP obligations in EPAs
may have on sustainable development prospects.