Meeting Report TNC - FTAA (3)

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HSA Team February 4, 2004
Puebla, Mexico Chances improve for an Extra Light FTAA The Extra Light FTAA has better chances of succeeding not only because the governments of the major blocs are pushing to finish the agreement by the original timeline, but also because they seem ready to pay the price for the recognition that the original FTAA vision is dead and that the FTAA has been reduced to a purely commercial agreement. This tendency is reflected in Brazil´s ability to resist strong pressure from its own business interests, such as the agribusiness sector, which has declared that an FTAA with these characteristics is a dead deal. In the U.S., big business interests still haven´t be able to change the new direction of the negotiations agreed to Miami, which they continue to oppose. In this context, the blocs will make every effort to reach consensus on Tier 1 in Puebla, and will begin to discuss what Tier 2 will look like, but without entering into details on the second Tier. The differences in evidence again today are simply irresolvable, but every effort is being made to ignore them in order to sign off on a minimal agreement. Countries that are anxious to sign off on something see the Extra Light FTAA as the only viable route. Today there really weren't any substantial changes to the official agenda. The official meeting began with the co- presidents providing a summary of yesterday's discussion on common rights and obligations (Tier 1), which covered the issues of market access, agriculture, services and investment. Afterwards, the Brazilian delegation requested that at a very minimum, there should be a closed-circuit transmission of the meetings to all delegation members, contesting yesterday's decision that country delegations be restricted to the Chief of the delegation + 4 delegates. By the end of the discussion, the plenary sessions were opened to all delegates, including the civil society representatives. The remaining Tier 1 issues (government procurement, competition policy, intellectual property, subsidies and antidumping, dispute settlement, and institutional issues) were presented today. In addition, there were brief discussions on the documents presented by Mercosur and the G10 (Canada, US, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Chile) regarding procedures for negotiating Tier 2. After the presentations, the co-presidents suggested a system of direct consultations regarding Tier 1 between them and representatives of each proposal (Mercosur, G14, Caricom, Bolivia, and Venezuela). These self-proclaimed "confessional" sessions are an attempt to try to reach consensus and produce a final text. This will last through tomorrow and probably all day, with the final goal of producing a consensus text. Civil Society Mercosur representatives and civil society members of the delegations discussed Chile´s proposal on ¨Mechanisms on Civil Society Consultation.¨ Last year, Chile presented a proposal to create a permanent civil society committee made up of four representatives, one from big business, one from small business, one from labor and one representative from NGOs and academia. Mercosur admitted that they do not have a proposal on civil society, but, at the same time, they suspect that the Chilean proposal is a simulacrum and that it would be better to use the types of consultative mechanism that Mercosur uses. The discussion was left open and will be taken up again in the future. Small Scale Agriculture One of today´s new items was the Mercosur´s idea (initiated by Brazil) of making a proposal on small-scale and family agriculture to the negotiating group on agriculture. They propose special and differential for developing countries to allow for adequate policies regarding small-scale farming, including indigenous, campesino and family farms, aiming for food security. Mercosur discussed a short text on the issue with the Bolivian, Peruvian, and Venezuelan delegations. Mercosur will most likely present the same text to the TNC tomorrow for more discussion. The Second Tier Today ten countries (the G14 countries minus Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru - or "G10") introduced a proposal on the second Tier that was identical to the original G5´s draft proposal on the issue, which was floated before the TNC meeting began. It is not yet known why these four countries refused to support this Tier 2 proposal. Both Mercosur and the G10 presented their proposals to the TNC today. The presentations were short and simple, with few questions and little discussion. Nevertheless, several important differences were evident in the two proposals: - The G10 proposal appears to envision one set of plurilateral negotiations among those countries interested in joining, while the Mercosur proposal envisions the possibility of more than one plurilateral negotiation, each containing different groups of countries. - Mercosur proposes that the transparency and civil society participation rules of the existing FTAA negotiating groups apply automatically to any plurilateral negotiations, and that documents from the negotiations be available to all FTAA countries. The G10 proposal is silent on this issue. - Both Mercosur and the G10 would allow any FTAA country to observe the plurilateral negotiations. But, while Mercosur would allow observers to intervene if the plurilateral negotiations threatened to prejudice their rights, the G10 would allow no interventions from observers. - Both proposals would allow observers to join the plurilateral negotiations at any time. The G10 specifies that these observers would have to accept whatever modalities and texts were already agreed upon by the negotiating group, while Mercosur is silent on this issue. - Mercosur calls for plurilateral negotiations to have the same deadline as the overall FTAA negotiations. The G10 does not specifically address this issue, but proposes that the presidents of the overall FTAA negotiating process ensure, upon request, that there is enough time to complete plurilateral negotiations. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) On this issue, implementation of the TRIPs agreement is the only point upon which all five proposals agree. This is the only point on IPR included in the G14 proposal, while there are additional points on intellectual property in each of the other proposals. In particular, the proposals of Mercosur, Venezuela and Bolivia contain explicit references to the Doha agreements on public health. The Mercosur and Venezuela proposals propose the establishment of hemispheric rules on technology transfer. And, as we mentioned yesterday, Venezuela joined Bolivia in explicitly mentioning the need to guarantee protection for collective intellectual property, traditional knowledge, folklore and access to genetic resources. Ecuador and Peru supported these positions verbally, even though they both signed onto the G14 proposal that ignores these issues. Finally, Venezuela proposed creating a balance between the social function of intellectual property and human rights with individual intellectual property rights. Venezuela also proposed guarantees for diffusion and collective access to the fruits of scientific progress. During today´s session, there were contacts among Mercosur, Bolivia and Venezuela in an attempt to develop a joint proposal on IPR, but this is still a work in progress. Also, during the plenary, the U.S. made its position on TRIPs clear, pointing out that, in its point of view, the technological change and scientific advances had left the TRIPs agreement behind, and that deeper "post-TRIPs" rules were necessary. In a word, patents and copyrights for everything.
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