Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Time to rethink TRIPS?

Today the WTO Director-General has announced his recommendation given to the parties to suspend the negotiations of the Doha Round. The Doha Round, the Doha Development Round, was supposed to correct the asymmetries and inequities embedded in the result of the Uruguay Round, especially evident in the spirit, text and implementation of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, or TRIPS. Many, if not most, developing countries accepted TRIPS (those that were not coerced into accepting it) with the expectation that it would be both easier to deal with developed countries demands on intellectual property rights in a multilateral forum like WTO and that in exchange developed countries would make concessions in agricultural subsides. However, the first expectation was rapidly quashed when United States and Europe started a process of bilateral and regional trade agreements where intellectual property rights were the main component and included obligation beyond TRIPS even when the TRIPS’ implementation period had not expired, and the second one was quashed today when the “chronicle of an announced death” came to an end and the expected failure of the Doha Round was materialized.
Accordingly, it is possible to argue that the compromises assumed by developing countries in the field of intellectual property rights could and should be revised, based on equitable, moral and legal reasons. Developed countries have clearly not stood up to their promises and in addition it could be argued that, following general principles of law, an agreement can be voided when there is an obvious inequivalence between the obligations of the parties. Since the mutual obligations between developed and developing countries might have been balanced by the Round that just collapsed, it is arguable that the original ones also can be set apart (without even analysing the fact that an agreement entered into by coercion, as the one exercised by the US with the use of the Special 301, is void ab initio). Of course, even the neophytes in international law would point out, correctly, that Art 38 (1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice mentions both international conventions and general principles of law as sources of international law but there is wide consensus that there is a hierarchy between them, and that international conventions are, therefore, the ones that prevail in case of conflict. However, during the last few years several developed countries have openly violated international agreements dealing with torture, treatment of prisoners and countries’ right to self determination, which in addition are part of the ius cogens or international peremptory law that prevails over any other source of law, based on their unilateral assessment of their national interest and making unilateral, very debatable interpretations of those fundamental international agreements. Thus, taking into account that TRIPS agreement standing alone clearly has a negative impact on developing countries’ public health, access to knowledge and food security, developing countries would have the legal right to suspend its effect, founded on their national interest, until developed countries fulfil their part of their bargain by reaching a successful agreement on dismantling agricultural subsides as promised at the start of the Doha Round.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

IPSA Technology and Development Committee

The 20th World Congress of the International Political Science Association took place in Fukuoka, Japan, and I participated presenting a paper on Intellectual Property Rights, Regional Integration and Food Security in Developing Countries. The paper was presented in the panel about the Relationship Between Human Security and Global Democracy, organized by the Research Committee 35 on Technology and Development. By becoming member of the advisory board of the RC35, I expect to organize a panel on IT, its regulation and development for the next IPSA World Congress to be held in Santiago de Chile in 2009. In the meantime the idea is to held regional meetings and to try to put together at least one edited book on the topic.
As it normally happens with this type of multitudinary congresses, sometimes one feels that there are too many things going on at the same time and misses the smaller topical conferences focused on one issue, but after attending some panels on topics unrelated to my area of research and meeting people from an array of different social sciences I realised how important is to attend these congresses too (still, the more topical conferences are a must). Having tried always to engage IT regulation and development from a multidisciplinary point of view attending this congress put me in contact with a real multitude of disciplines and gave me some insights on ways to explore the topics I am currently researching about.
On the other hand, it is always nice to go back to Japan and feel that everyone is there to make you feel at home. The organization of the JPSA (link in Japanese only) and the City of Fukuoka was impecable, and the legion of volunteers that were there to help the gaijins was very impressive too.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

LASA 2007 has a place!

Following the policy of blank denial of visas to scholars from some Latin American countries, the Latin American Studies Association decided to relocate its International Congress outside United States. Now the LASA 2007 Congress will be held in Montreal, Canada, between the 6 and 8 of September of 2007.
The original call for papers for the Law and Technology panel is here and following there is a reminder

Reminder Call for papers (the place and date of the Congress has been decided)
Law, Technology and Society in Latin America

Papers are invited to be presented at a panel on the relationship between law, technology and its impact on society in Latin America to be held at the 2007 International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA 2007), sponsored by the Law & Society Section in Latin America (LASLA), which will take place in Montreal, Canada, between the 6 and 8 of September 2007.
The panel will focus on the link between law and technology and the ways that is affecting society in Latin America.
While the methodology is open, it is expected that the papers would be based on theoretical and empirical work leading to the development of grounded theory, as well as more policy orientated studies which feed directly into the policy making process. They would normally be built on a multi or inter-disciplinary approach.

The panel will concentrate on the following issues:

-Legal aspects of E-Government
-Data protection law and policies
-Intellectual Property rights, technology and development
-Cybercrime and cyberlaw
-Law, technology and innovation policy
-Freedom of expression and new technologies

Submissions in the form of an abstract should be e-mailed to Dr. Fernando Barrio f.barrio@londonmet.ac.uk and it must be received by noon GMT, August 18th, 2006.
The instructions for the paper submission cab be found here