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Between Coercion and Discourse

Developing Countries and the Adoption of Elevated Intellectual Property Standards

By Jessica Schulberg | May 17, 2012

CREDIT: Edgar Zuniga, Jr. (CC).

Introduction

The objective of this dissertation is to deconstruct why in July 2008 a developing country coalition led by Brazil, India, and China, and including the African Group; and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) bloc chose to back stringent intellectual property (IP) standards in the EU's World Trade Organization (WTO) document "TN/C/W/52" Proposal, herein referred to as the 'W52 Proposal.' In light of developing countries' opposition toward the adoption of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement in the Uruguay Round (UR) (1986-1994), the change in behavior is an interesting mystery worth solving. Two contending theoretical frameworks—neorealism and interpretivist neoliberalism—will be cited to explain the policy shift of developing countries toward intellectual property rights (IPRs).

Given 1) the potential losses for developing countries in implementing a multilateral register for wines, spirits, and other agricultural products; 2) the evidence of the EU's TRIPS-Plus measures through bilateral agreements; and 3) substantial evidence for developing countries' support of IPRs as a result of a liberalized EC agricultural sector—my hypothesis is that overall, developing countries' cooperation on 'W52' is more indicative of neorealist asymmetrical power relations than it is of norm acceptance and policy learning. Even with the development of some pro-TRIPS interests within the developing bloc, there does not appear to be an overarching realignment in normative principles that would support an interpretivist neoliberal explanation of policy change in the Doha Development Round (DDR).

The neorealist thesis is supported by evidence of issue linkage with agriculture, the EU's coercive strategies, and perhaps most poignantly, a dearth in developing countries' willingness to implement IPRs through bilateral agreements with the EU. However, considering developing countries'—especially least developed countries' (LDCs')—indisputable interest in implementing greater protection for their 'traditional knowledge' within a WTO framework, the possibility that the socialized norm of liberalism can redefine national interests should be recognized. Still, on a macro level, it appears that the most recent IPR negotiations in Doha will not produce a true shift of global alliances on IP.

There is a need for further research and discourse on the topic of process issues and coalition building in trade negotiations in the context of GIs. While assymetrical power relations in the Uruguay and Doha Rounds have been well documented—the niche IP issues in the July 2008 'W52 Proposal'—demand further anlysis. Moreover, the discussion of geographical indicators and traditional knowledge complements a critical ongoing debate on the relationship between trade, agriculture and the environment.

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Read More: Agriculture, Development, Economy, Environment, Trade, Brazil, China, India, Africa, Asia, Global

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