Following is the full text of a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Industry, Mr CHAU Tak Hay, at the Opening of the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Intellectual Property Rights Experts Group Meeting and the APEC Symposium on Traditional Medicine today (March 19):
Chairman Kobayashi, Honourable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would, first of all, like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you, and especially to those who have travelled here from outside Hong Kong. It is a great honour and privilege for Hong Kong, China to host this event in collaboration with APEC.
The Intellectual Property Rights Experts Group, "IPEG", is a long-standing institution in APEC. For those of you who are not familiar with it, IPEG provides a forum for the exchange of views and experience in developing areas of intellectual property law and enforcement.
IPEG has in recent years focused on facilitating compliance among APEC Members with the WTO's (World Trade Organisation's) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, known for short as the TRIPs Agreement. Hong Kong has gained valuable knowledge from our fellow members. A good example was the workshop hosted by Korea last November, which introduced to Members the most recent developments in electronic processing in relation to intellectual property rights.
Hong Kong was privileged to host in February this year an APEC workshop aimed at strengthening Members' capacity to implement the TRIPS Agreement. We greatly value the sharing of experience and the spirit of mutual support that developed during that week.
This morning's ceremony celebrates the start of another important event : the APEC Symposium on Traditional Medicine, jointly organised by APEC and the Department of Health and Intellectual Property Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
For many years, it has been Hong Kong's vision to play a strategic role in the research, development, standardisation and marketing of products based on traditional Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine is well established in Hong Kong; but largely we have been supplying a domestic market. We look forward to strengthening links with other traditional medicine communities to share experiences in bringing new and old medicinal products to growing markets in both the East and the West.
Compared to modern, Western medicine, research and development in traditional medicine has benefited less from the protection offered by intellectual property law. The patent, with its rigid formal requirements for novelty and specificity in defining the outcome of a product or process, does not lie well with traditional medicinal products and healing techniques.
A fear has also developed among some traditional medicine communities that multinational businesses could use intellectual property law to misappropriate traditional knowledge from local communities and exploit their patrimony.
In organising this symposium, we aim to bring together those who have a deep knowledge of traditional medicine and those who understand intellectual property protection. For many practitioners in these two disciplines, they are a mystery to each other.
By raising the levels of understanding of each other's disciplines, we hope this symposium could offer APEC Members new insights. We also hope that there will be a continued dialogue aimed at strengthening intellectual property protection for the fruits of research into traditional medicine and healing techniques.
If we can achieve this, we may contribute to spurring research that will bring forth a greater variety of solutions to the health problems that beset people throughout the world.
I wish you a fruitful discussion over the next two days. To our overseas guests, I also wish you a pleasant stay in Hong Kong.
End/Tuesday, March 19, 2002