No New Issues Without Redress Of Uruguay Round Imbalances
Since former EU Trade Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan first floated the idea of a Millennium Round of trade talks, developing countries have remained steadfast in their demand that developed countries honour Uruguay Round commitments before moving forward full force with new trade negotiations.
Specifically, developing countries are concerned over developed countries’ compliance with agreements on market access for textiles, their use of antidumping measures against developing countries’ exports, and over-implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs).
Regarding anti-dumping, developing countries have called for a review of WTO rules, hoping to make anti-dumping measures more responsive to their needs. These countries argue that some developed countries misuse anti-dumping measures, which has resulted in significant trade barriers to developing countries’ exports. Japan and South Korea, frequent targets of anti-dumping investigations, have thus far been the strongest proponents amongst developed countries for including a review of anti-dumping measures in the next round. Canada has also joined the chorus calling for a review, while the EU has yet to take a definitive position on the matter. The U.S., however, has become increasingly isolated in its opposition to re-opening the anti-dumping agreement, especially as developing countries join strong trade powers in calling for a review of anti-dumping rules. There is tremendous political pressure within the U.S. from labour and industry groups to keep the anti-dumping rules unchanged in order to protect struggling U.S. industries (e.g. steel) against import surges. The U.S. has strongly criticised Japan for its position on the issue, accusing Japan of having a less than admirable record on dumping.
With regard to textiles, developing countries argue that restrictive implementation of developed countries’ commitments in textiles under the Uruguay Round Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC), combined with the extensive use of trade remedies (such as anti-dumping measures), have resulted only in a minimal increase in market opening while reinforcing imbalances in competition between developed and developing countries.
India (for whom textiles account for more than 20 percent of total exports) intends to press developed countries to dismantle quotas in advance of the 2005 deadline. Under the ATC, textile-importing countries such as the U.S. and EU agreed to a ten-year phase-out period (until 2005) for restrictions on textile imports. Developing countries agreed to the phase-out period, even though developed countries back-loaded the most commercially meaningful products at the end of the period. Colombia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are among other Members pushing for improved implementation of the ATC.
Regarding the TRIPs Agreement, a number of developing countries have called for an extension of the implementation deadline for Art.27.3 (b) that calls for WTO Members to protect intellectual property (IPRs) over plant varieties either through patents, an effective sui generis system, or with a combination of the two. The deadline for implementation is 1 Jan 2000, but developing countries want to extend it to five years from the date of completion of the review of Art.27.3 (b) that is currently underway.
The U.S. has thus far rejected the idea of extending the TRIPs Agreement implementation deadline or of renegotiating aspects of the Agreement to address developing countries’ concerns. The U.S. argues that it has yet to benefit from the agreement and that an effective intellectual property protection system would be beneficial in stimulating research and development.
Meanwhile, some developing countries intend to place on the table at the WTO Ministerial access to lower cost pharmaceuticals (particularly HIV/AIDS treatment). Countries such as South Africa, Thailand, and others dealing with large HIV/AIDS populations want to protect their rights to price control mechanisms under the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects on Intellectual Property Rights. These mechanisms help ensure affordable access to pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical firms, on the other hand, fear that mechanisms such as compulsory licensing and parallel importing would lower world prices for HIV/AIDS treatments (and all pharmaceuticals) and lead to a deterioration of product quality and a loss of control over regulatory standards.
“India leads fight for developing nations market access,” AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, 16 November 1999; “The dumping, not the response, is the issue,” JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, 19 November 1999; “Canada sees anti-dumping review in WTO trade round,” REUTERS, 28 October 1999; “U.S. won’t discuss dumping at WTO,” WASHINGTON POST, 27 October 1999; “Japan defends its agenda at WTO,” REUTERS, 25 October 1999; “EU hesitant to collaborate with Japan on anti-dumping,” KYODO NEWS INTERNATIONAL, 9 November 1999; “Trade: implementation issues as important as agriculture,” SUNS, 2 November 1999; “India will not be browbeaten in WTO talks,” AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 2 November 1999; “Traditional knowledge under commercial blanket,” SUNS, 5 November 1999; “Developing nations see trade battle on HIV drugs,” IPS, 27 October 1999.