At a meeting of the Working Group on Trade and Transfer of Technology on 24 November, experts from international organisations and ministries shared their experiences and findings on technology transfer, with a view to invigorating work of the group, improving understanding on the nexus between trade and transfer of technology and increasing flows of technology to developing countries.
Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang highlighted the multifaceted nature of technology transfer and how the nexus between trade and the transfer of technology could increase the flow of technology to developing countries. Technology transfer is a critical vehicle for greener, sustainable and a more inclusive economy, he said.
DDG Zhang added: “Let us not lose sight of the fundamental goals of the WTO as set out in the preamble of our founding Marrakesh agreement of using trade to improve living standards, create better jobs and promote sustainable development. These goals are fundamentally about people and the work in this group has the potential to do much more to improve the lives of people worldwide.”
The discussions focused on a framework for technology transfer, technology transfer applied to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and using technology transfer to promote access to vital goods and innovation during a pandemic.
Members heard presentations by the WTO Secretariat and representatives from international organisations, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, World Intellectual Property Organisation, Standards and Trade Development Facility, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Economic Forum and the World Health Organisation.
In addition, country perspectives were shared by Peru, Senegal, Madagascar and Argentina, with suggestions on how to move work forward in the group.
Shamika Sirimanne, Director of Technology and Logistics at UNCTAD, referred in her remarks to a recently published report on technology and innovation and emphasized the importance of technology transfer in enabling economic diversification.
“The notion that developing countries needed access to technology and know-how on better terms as a precondition for the emergence of a fair international economic order was at the core of the ground-breaking code of conduct of technology transfer, and this code of conduct established the framework for all future discussions of the issue,” she said.
The working group chair, Ambassador Luis Chuquihuara Chil (Peru), said: “Trade can and should trigger the scenarios to promote and strengthen easier access to technology, knowledge and innovation. It is one of the most efficient and effective ways through which members may address the main 21st century global challenges, such as climate change, food insecurity and global health.”
A number of provisions in the WTO agreements mention the need for a transfer of technology to take place between developed and developing countries. However, it is not clear how such a transfer takes place in practice and if specific measures might be taken within the WTO to encourage such flows of technology. The Working Group on Transfer of Technology was established by ministers in Doha in 2002 and aims to examine the relationship between trade and the transfer of technology from developed to developing countries, and ways to increase the flow of technology to developing countries.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) deals with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.