EU APPROVES FARM ANIMAL HORMONE BAN
EU Ministers, meeting for the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 16- 19 December, reached political agreement on the Commission's proposal related to the ban of hormones as growth promoters for farm animals. The proposal aims to amend Directive 96/22/EC, thereby making the current temporary legislative ban permanent. The European Parliament, which will vote on the proposal by mid-2003, is expected to back the ban. The US National Cattlemen's Beef Association strongly criticised the Council's decision, accusing the EU of flaunting WTO rules. In 1998, the WTO had ruled in favour of the US and Canada that the first Commission ban, instituted in 1989, was not justified on scientific grounds and had allowed the US to impose sanctions worth USD 116.8 on EU exports. The Commission is hoping that the scientific advice on health risks of hormone-treated beef underlying the adopted proposal would convince the WTO that the EU ban was scientifically justified rather than constituting a trade barrier. The Agriculture and Fisheries Council also discussed fishing quotas and the EU's negotiating stance in the current agriculture talks at the WTO (see related stories in this issue of BRIDGES Weekly Trade news Digest).
"US impatient with EU ban on GMOs, beef hormones," REUTERS, 18 December 2002; "Ministers' no to hormones," BLOOMBERG, 18 December 2002.
TEN YEARS AFTER ENTRY INTO FORCE, BASEL CONVENTION COP AGREES ON STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE FUTURE, ADOPTS COMPLIANCE MECHANISM
At the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-6) to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, delegates adopted a ten-year Strategic Plan and agreed on a compliance mechanism. They made headway on issues such as Basel Convention Regional Centres and new institutional arrangements, and adopted technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of biomedical and healthcare wastes, plastic wastes, waste lead-acid batteries, and the dismantling of ships. Meeting from 9- 14 December in Geneva, Switzerland, the COP agreed on the budget for 2003-2005, following drawn-out negotiations. The COP saw the launch of a partnership initiative with mobile phone manufacturers, addressing the recovery of end-of-life mobile telephones using a life-cycle approach. Delegates further considered cooperation with relevant international bodies. They adopted a decision that requests the Basel Convention apply for observer status and to attend the Committee on Trade and Environment special negotiation session meetings. According to the decision, the Secretariat is to consult with Parties when providing general advice to the WTO, while a deeper interpretation of trade-related convention provisions is deferred to the COP. However, at the close of the meeting some observers pointed to a lack of steam in the process, noting that only 90 out of 152 Parties were present at the COP. They stressed that a 1995 legally-binding amendment prohibiting trade in hazardous waste from OECD to non-OECD countries has yet to enter into force, and questioned whether the convention process is on track to reach broader goals such as hazardous waste minimization.
For further information on the meeting see IISD's Earth Negotiations Bulletin: http://www.iisd.ca/linkages/basel/cop6/.
"Leading Manufacturers And Basel Convention To Cooperate On The Environmentally Sound Management Of End-of-life Mobile Phones," UNEP PRESS RELEASE, 12 December 2002.
WIPO COMMITTEE CONTINUES DISCUSSIONS ON LEGAL PROTECTION FOR TK
Extensive discussions continued at the fourth meeting of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore on 9-17 December on possible ways of providing legal protection for traditional knowledge (TK) and folklore, including through the use of databases, a multilateral sui generis system and disclosure requirements for country of origin, benefit sharing and prior informed consent in patent application. Participants also considered coordination with other WIPO bodies such as the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents as well as forums outside WIPO, and the need to fund indigenous representatives to allow them to participate in ICG meetings. As one observer noted, the discussions at the meeting seemed less "lively" than before, adding that the Committee "almost seemed to be running out of steam". The observer speculated that this could be a sign that countries might need more time to consider their positions on the kind of system for TK protection that would be appropriate for them. Others believe that it is time to change the group's mandate from study to negotiations mode, arguing that they are unwilling to spend more efforts on a process that had no mandate to advance toward adequate solutions on the relationship between intellectual property rights and genetic resources and the protection of TK and folklore. For the full story, see BRIDGES Trade Biores, 20 December 2002.
Documents of the meeting are available at http://www.wipo.org/documents/en/meetings/2002/igc/index_4.htm.