China and India are once again lobbying together for a larger say in formulating policies at the World Trade Organisation. This time round the Asian emerging economies plan to raise their voice against tough intellectual property regimes such as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Plus measures and their culmination in the form of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Both these agreements are being drafted by developed economies such as the US, Japan, the EU, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and South Korea and could hamper China and India’s trade in a number of areas.
Since the issue is being discussed and drafted by the council today and tomorrow, China and India both want a say in drafting the regulation so it remains flexible and doesn’t undermine the balance of rights as laid down by the TRIPS agreement. “We cannot yet challenge the anti counterfeiting trade agreement at the WTO because it is still being formulated. But we can certainly have a discussion on where such an agreement would stand vis-a-vis the WTO,” a government official told Economic Times.
Key areas the two countries plan to raise are – a lowering of the threshold for criminal cases, damages, transit issues, and cross-referencing in the European Union.
India and Brazil recently filed a dispute settlement case at the WTO against the EU for customs measures that have led to stoppages of legitimate generic medicines passing through from India to developing countries out of concern that the generics infringed IP rights of European brand-name drugmakers.
China last week came under fire in its biannual WTO trade policy review from the US and EU for lax IP rights enforcement and possibly discriminatory encouragement for domestic innovation.
The Trips agreement was signed as part of the broader multilateral trade agreement of the WTO (erstwhile GATT) during the Uruguay round in 1994. It forced a large number of developing countries to make sweeping, stringent changes in their domestic intellectual property regime. Going beyond the Trips agreement is something that is unacceptable to countries like India and China as it could render a lot of legitimate products made in such countries like generic drugs and software illegal.
The ACTA is being negotiated between eleven countries (it also includes Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, NZ, Morocco and Singapore), proposes to widen the scope of protection and setting up higher standards for enforcement of intellectual property rights. It would extend to import, export and in-transit goods and includes infringement of all IPRs.
Both India and China are also keen to work towards a multilateral trade agreement which will open markets for all economies concerned. While China is keen to join the WTO Agreement on Government Procurements as soon as possible, many economies including the US and India haven’t granted China market economy status. Until China gains market economy status from all economies concerned, the WTO cannot grant it permission to supply goods and services to international governments.