Enforcing TRIPS in Asia: The Implications for Agricultural Trade and Development, and an Agenda for Effective Compliance
In accordance with its mandate to ensure the production and trade of better and competitively priced goods and services around the world, the World Trade Organization has to enforce several multilateral agreements, one of which is that on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Geared towards protecting the intellectual property rights (IPR) of inventors and authors on goods traded worldwide, TRIPS sets minimum standards of IPR protection, which member countries can legislate. Due to the difficulty in estimating the impact of TRIPS on agriculture, it has spawned spirited debates among its proponents and critics since its implementation in 1995. Unfortunately, the bases of arguments from both sides about the impact of TRIPS on global goods trade in general, and on agricultural trade in particular, have been anecdotal. Although some economists have tried to develop models to analyze the impact of TRIPS on trade, their findings have been inconclusive. The same holds true as well with respect to the expected impact of TRIPS on agricultural trade and development.
This paper examines the legal provisions of TRIPS and their implications on Asian agricultural trade and development. It also discusses other issues—not addressed by TRIPS but attributed to it, such as agriculture R&D, "bio-piracy", traditional knowledge and folklore, and plant breeder's rights—whose links to TRIPS have not been established by evidence, or are, at best, anecdotal.
Documenting a specific application of TRIPS, the paper highlights the experience of the Philippines in the testing and commercialization of Bt corn, an agricultural biotechnology product developed and commercialized after TRIPS had gone into effect. The Philippine Bt corn experience provides some evidence that TRIPS and agricultural biotechnology—given the conducive environment of TRIPS-compliant domestic IPR laws, bio-safety policy regulations, information and education campaigns, and research and development—can have a positive impact on agricultural trade and development, even in a developing and agricultural country like the Philippines.
Based on the analysis of the current impact of TRIPS on Asian agricultural trade and development, and the Bt corn experience of the Philippines, the paper proposes an Asian agenda for member countries, by which they can effectively deal with, and benefit from TRIPS.
- June 2007
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