Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are mushrooming at both regional and bilateral levels. According to the World Bank, the number of agreements in force has increased six-fold in just two decades.1 These treaties are often one component of a larger political effort to deepen economic relations between selected countries. While the primary aim of FTAs is increased market access, these accords contain a number of trade-related regulations, including those on intellectual property rights (IPRs), investment, services, government procurement and, in some cases, the environment.2
The intellectual property (IP) obligations in these agreements are notable for expanding the minimum standards of protection and enforcement beyond those laid out in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of 1994.3 As these IP obligations are of recent vintage, it is difficult to assess their impact and relevance to technical assistance (TA). This paper seeks to generate knowledge and facilitate consensus around an action-oriented strategy for evolving and mainstreaming IPR technical assistance and capacity building. It deals specifically with IP technical assistance provisions in regional and bilateral trade agreements.
The paper thus focuses on some of the technical assistance concerns raised by FTAs, including the challenges to developing countries with regard to implementation and human and institutional capacity building. It pays particular attention to FTAs between the US and a number of developing countries, especially those in Latin America. It centres its analysis on the needs and issues arising out of the implementation of FTAs and does not deal with TA in the negotiating phase. With respect to the latter, a number of institutions, particularly non-traditional providers of TA, have been dealing with challenges related to negotiations.4
Against this backdrop, the paper begins with a broad consideration of the FTA phenomenon and what it represents in terms of challenges in the area of TA. It then reviews recent trends in TA, including a comparative analysis of TA in FTAs and related matters. Finally, the paper summarises the main findings and provides a set of preliminary recommendations for providers of technical assistance. The paper draws on the experience of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) in the implementation of its Programme on IPRs and Sustainable Development and in research, dialogues and workshops, sponsored by the programme, with a diversity of stakeholders.5
See World Bank (2004).
For the sake of convenience, all such bilateral agreements will be referred to as Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
See Resource Book (2005).
For definition of non-traditional providers, see Tansey, G. (2005).
See under general www.iprsonline.org. Annex C to this document lists the Dialogues sponsored by ICTSD since 2001.