Building capacity to help Africa trade better

20 years on, negotiators reflect on breakthrough talks on intellectual property and trade


20 years on, negotiators reflect on breakthrough talks on intellectual property and trade

20 years on, negotiators reflect on breakthrough talks on intellectual property and trade
Photo credit: WTO

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo launched a new publication entitled “The Making of the TRIPS Agreement: Personal Insights from the Uruguay Round Negotiations” on Day 2 of the Public Forum on 1 October 2015.

He highlighted that the WTO’s TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) Agreement introduced substantive and comprehensive disciplines on IP rights into the multilateral trading system and that it has impacted deeply on national IP regimes around the world – with the most significant changes experienced in developing economies.

“The Making of the TRIPS Agreement”, co-edited by Jayashree Watal and Antony Taubman, presents for the first time the diverse personal accounts of the negotiators of this unique trade agreement. Their rich contributions illustrate how different policy perspectives and trade interests were accommodated in the final text, and map the shifting alliances that transcended conventional boundaries between developed and developing countries, with a close look at issues such as copyright for software, patents on medicines and the appropriate scope of protection of geographical indications.

In launching the publication, DG Azevêdo said:

“This book is not just one for IP specialists; and it is not meant to be a book about the law of TRIPS. Instead, by describing the practical process of the making of the Agreement, and by explaining the working methods and negotiating techniques that were developed – or often improvised – it offers real insights.

“I think these insights are valid even today for those who wish to learn how such a potentially divisive subject could be negotiated to a successful conclusion. It therefore offers a rare insider’s account of the craft of international negotiations.

“The insights in this volume are not only of deep historic interest – they will also serve as an inspiration for success in future negotiations in other such complex and sensitive areas.”

His full speech is available here.

In the book, the contributors share their views on how intellectual property fitted into the overall Uruguay Round, the political and economic considerations driving TRIPS negotiations, the role of non-state actors, the sources of the substantive and procedural standards that were built into the TRIPS Agreement, and future issues in the area of intellectual property.

In probing how negotiations led to an enduring agreement that has served as a framework for policymaking in many countries, the contributions offer lessons for current and future negotiators. The contributors highlight the enabling effect of a clear negotiating agenda, and underscore the important, but distinct, roles of the Chair, of the Secretariat and above all, of the negotiators themselves.

Speaking at the launch, Antony Taubman said that “TRIPS has been proven to be an unexpectedly resilient and effective framework for balanced, good governance in the IP domain. The negotiations have shown us the benefits of taking an intellectually curious and inclusive approach to learning about technical issues under negotiation – an approach that is all the more valuable today as we seek together to learn from diverse experience working with TRIPS in over 130 jurisdictions”.

Jayashree Watal added: “The book makes no claim to present the authentic negotiating history of the TRIPS agreement, nor a guide to interpretation of its provisions. It merely presents as its title says – personal insights – from those who were involved in the negotiations.”


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