Apr 11, 1989


GENEVA, APRIL 8 – GATT Director-General Arthur Dunkel viewed positively the outcome of the TNC meeting for GATT and trading system and the Uruguay round.

At a press conference Saturday evening, Dunkel justified GATT involvement in TRIPS, arguing that intellectual property formed part of "society's goods". And was exchanged, and therefore "there is need to find rules in terms of the trading system".

Dunkel's view about GATT involvement was in contrast to the views of third world delegates at the TNC meeting, who underscored the fact that the institutional character and implementation of the accord is to be determined at the end of the round by their ministers.

At the TNC meeting, after it had adopted the package, several third worlds countries spoke, with varying nuances, explaining or interpreting the agreements reached and their dissatisfaction at the imbalanced outcome.

All of them also stressed the provisions in the accord that consideration would be given in the negotiations to their concerns about public policy objectives of their national systems of IPR protection, including technological and developmental objectives.

But this particular provision did not figure in the paras of the TRIPS decision, which Dunkel identified as "clearly operational" and setting guidelines for the negotiators.

Dunkel also drew attention to another para in the accord (aimed at the U.S. bilateral pressures and s. procedures for unilateral actions) that emphasised the importance of reducing tensions by reaching strengthened commitments to resolve TRIPS disputes through multilateral procedures. This formulation, in stronger language, had been in the Dunkel text, but almost got dropped out, and was brought back apparently at the instance of Japan.

In more general comments, Dunkel felt that the Uruguay round processes had received a push by the U.S. trade law as well as the EEC moves to achieve a single unified market by 1992. Through the Uruguay round the two parties could have the opportunity to move towards "openness" rather than "closeness", Dunkel suggested.

At the TNC, several third world delegates put an record (for whatever it may be worth) their view that the issue of norms and standards in intellectual property and their adequacy, as well as national enforcement procedures and mechanisms were not part of the GATT, and the agreement to negotiate them in the Uruguay round over the next 20 months is without prejudice to their position either about this or the decisions about final implementation and the institutional framework which is to be decided by ministers at the end of the Uruguay round.

In the clearest and most strongly warded statement, Cuba complained about the lack of transparency in the negotiating process adopted by Dunkel and the highly imbalanced overall results. The TRIPS agreement went beyond the Punta del Este mandate, Cuba said, and specifically rejected the effort to bring into GATT matters being dealt with in WIPO and other organisations. The Cuban delegate also rejected any decision (in the round) that would compromise access of third world countries to new technologies, which would contribute to their marginalisation, since it would mean "acceptance of a new form of dependency".

India said in its view the Punta del Este mandate did not include consideration of standards and principles for intellectual property rights (IPRS). "Even so, we have agreed to allow the multilateral process to move forward with the objective of strengthening multilateral system". But duplication between WIPO and GATT "Must be avoided", and as agreed the relationship of the outcome of the negotiations with GATT must be decided by ministers at the end of the round. India also hoped that the promised consideration in the negotiations to take account of concerns of countries at different levels of development and differing systems governing IPR protection, and the outcome of the negotiations "would allow everyone to remain on board".

Brazil said it had accepted "a frank discussion, placing on the table substantive arguments with all the possible implications this issue may have for international trade". But it had been made clear that "these discussions will always keep present the objectives of economic and social development, of public interest and the need, across all areas, of the principle of special and differential treatment". The basis for the compromise, Brazil added, rested on the recognition that there was no prejudgement as to the final results of negotiations, be it in relation to the content or institutional framework where it might be implemented.

India and Brazil were two of the third world countries that had been involved in the "green room" consultations and the even more restricted consultations that Dunkel had held.

In other comments, Colombia underscored its position that the text adopted in TRIPS went far beyond the Punta del Este mandate. In a constructive spirit however, it had not objected to the consensus.

Tanzania said on TRIPS that the industrial countries had "such a weight" in the system that when they decided to exercised their rights, they did so in a manner that accentuated the present imbalance in the distribution of economic power globally. "What has been happening so far in trips has been unbearable pressure an all of U.S.", the Tanzanian delegate remarked. Earlier, he had referred to the outcome in textiles and clothing, which he characterised as "a test" for those who claimed they were committed to a functioning multilateral trading system. The same countries, he said, were "giving evidence of reluctance from refraining from making the situation worse". All this ran counter to their claims of commitment to the strengthening of the international trading system.

The imbalanced outcome, several third world delegates said after the TNC, was due to the state of disarray of the third world inside GATT and the Uruguay round, and the inability of their capitals to grasp the complex issues involved in these negotiations and their serious consequences to the future of their countries and their economic wellbeing.

Even though on the large majority of issues on the Uruguay round agenda, particularly the systemic issues and new themes, the third world countries faced similar problems and were facing a determined onslaught from the industrial nations, there has been a lack of political will in the capitals to concert and coordinate in defence of their common interests.

Even the limited attempts at unity and common front, evolved at the level of Geneva diplomats on such matters as TRIPS were not pursued in the capitals of the major third world economies, and becoming victims of the disinformation campaign of the us and GATT officials, did not present a united front but compromised.

After the meeting one third world delegate, involved in the Uruguay round even before it was launched said the major tragedy of the south was that the major third world economies, which had a weight of their own and collectively had failed to concert and mobilise others who might be economically minor but politically useful.

Before Punta del Este, the delegate said, the third world allowed itself to be split. After Punta del Este, when realisation set in that those who had supported the U.S. (and supported the Swiss-Colombian text, which had been backed by the U.S., EEC and Japan) had gained nothing, there was an opportunity to mobilise the south into unity in the round. This too was missed.

The South Commission's call for ministerial involvement, and its indirect efforts to promote a meeting of important third world countries before Montreal did not succeed.

At Montreal, third world countries showed some unity, as example by the Latin American Cairns members’ stand (that they would bloc a consensus if there was no agreement on agriculture) which had been received with "understanding" by other third world countries.

Yet, a further opportunity (provided by the Montreal outcome) to mobilise wider third world support against the demands of the north on TRIPS, or the south's demands on textiles or safeguards, was lost.

Even on agriculture, the moment the U.S. and EEC agreed, most of the Latin American Cairns members caved in, with some of them discouraging any efforts to oppose collectively the TRIPS document of Dunkel. Those in the south who had till recently been providing leadership on these key issues, believed the disinformation campaign of the U.S. and some GATT officials that they were isolated and adopted a defeatist attitude from the outset.

It was time that the heads of states/governments of some of the core economies of the third world, interested in pursuing autonomous development, got together and decided to mandate their officials to pursue a coordinated approach.