Economic Partnership Agreements: Intellectual Property Rights & TRIPS Compatibility

A Workshop organised by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development - CAFOD
Centre for International Environmental Law - CIEL
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development - ICTSD
Quaker United Nations Office - QUNO

Venue: Centre de Formation
Jongny, Switzerland

16 - 18 February 2007

Description | Agenda | Participants | Documents



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; and

  • 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.

© ICTSD 2004 - Last Update: 05-Oct-2009