Apr 24, 1991

TECHNOLOGY: TRANSFER ON FAIR AND EQUITABLE TERMS URGENT - G77.

GENEVA, APRIL 22 (CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) Moves of Industrialised Countries to increase protection on intellectual (industrial) property, through national and worldwide measures, and constraints imposed by them on technology access of Third World countries, had made urgent the need for "an international framework of principles and standards for technology transfer on fair and equitable terms to both suppliers and recipients", the Group of 77 has urged.

"This", the Group has said, "is also the rationale for the validity and usefulness of an international code of conduct on the transfer of technology".

The G77 position was outlined Monday at the UNCTAD Committee on Transfer of Technology by Amb. Marcelo Vargas of Mexico.

Earlier in introducing the secretariat documentation, Thomas Ganiatsos, Officer-in-charge of the UNCTAD Technology programme, expressed concern over the three technology-related "reforms" that have been put forward in the international fora (a reference to the Uruguay Round negotiations on TRIPs, TRIMs and services).

The financial constraints faced by the Third World countries, Vargas said, were among the causes of the further increase in technological gap between them and the ICs in the 1980s.

This situation was even more dramatic in the case of new and emerging technologies whose development required large financial resources and cooperation between governments and firms. As a result of this gap, the Third World countries would find themselves marginalised from critical areas such as biotechnology including genetic-engineering, new materials and micro-electronics.

The increasingly determining role of technology in international trade had so far placed the Third World countries at an additional disadvantage concerning product innovation, export supply and market penetration capabilities.

The proposals for worldwide uniform and higher standards of IPR protection and their enforcement, restrictions on performance requirements on investments, and opening up of Third World service sectors before they were competitive, taken singly or in combination, would have negative implications for transfer to and development of technology in the Third World.

In addition to these problems, there was also an impasse in the completion of other important international instruments such as the international code for transfer of technology and the revision of the Paris Convention on industrial property.

While many Third World countries had formulated policies and measures at national levels on the transfer and development of technology, according to their socio-economic objectives and needs external financial constraints had outweighed the effects of their legislation in the attempt to attract investments and technology.

The national policies and measures need to be supported by modalities of international cooperation to enable these countries have access to, and benefit from, the achievements of advanced technology. These should include elaboration of policies more compatible with goal of trade expansion for the benefit of all trading partners, and providing market access for Third World exports of commodities, manufactures and services.

At national and international levels, it was important to examine different policy options which could allow Third World countries to benefit from technological change, including transfer of environmentally sound technologies to achieve sustainable development, the G77 spokesman said.

The Technology Committee, Vargas said, should also consider ways and means of strengthening technology-related institutional and human resource base of the Third World countries.

The initiatives could include measures "to encourage skilled personnel from the Third World to remain in their own countries or those residing abroad to return to their home countries". It was also necessary to enhance the role of regional and international financial institutions in supporting the transfer and development of technology, including technological innovation, in the Third World as well as strengthening at both governmental and entrepreneurial level regional and international cooperation in the field of technology.

The access of Third World countries to technology could be enhanced, Vargas said, through joint R & D schemes, research and consumption consortia and government financed innovation programmes in specific sectors.

Chinas Wang Tiance said that the decline or stagnation in technology transfer to the developing countries during the 1980s was due to many factors including protectionism, recession, the debt crisis, fall in commodity prices and earnings and the weakened import capacity of these countries. During the 1990s due to intensification of competition among corporations and groups, technology suppliers would obtain an even stronger bargaining leverage, thus putting developing countries in even less competitive position

While these countries should continue to take necessary measures to revitalise transfer of technology, it was even more important to create "a congenial international environment favouring the transfer of technology from developed to developing countries".