While WIPO’s technical assistance programme has been seen as less biased than much of the bilateral assistance on offer from the EU and the US, the history that Africa has with WIPO concerning cooperation in the provision of IP technical assistance can be said to have led to the introduction of Western-style IP norms across the continent. Our leaders and negotiators, therefore, need to proceed with caution in negotiating the AfCFTA IP protocol and the kind of technical assistance they receive. They must consult broadly and court the services of African scholars and experts on the matter.
Traditional international law (IL) teaching and research has reached an inflection point (TRILA Report, 24). Content-wise it has long been monopolised by the usual suspects: sources of law, treaties, statehood, territory, jurisdiction and specific values such as universality and equality among states. The most conservative IL scholars will smirk at the thought of alternative ‘transnational’ or ‘Third World’ approaches to IL. To be fair to them, lawyers are fond of compartmentalising. We have those that do private law, public law, human rights, international economic law, law and development, business and human rights law, health law, dispute resolution law, to name a few. Yet as the current pandemic is showing this type of boxed thinking cannot provide the tools for meaningful teaching and research about today’s legal conundrums. We live in an uncertain world in which one issue can raise a myriad of legal problems that straddle multiple fields of law.
This article will briefly examine this dynamic across three interconnected dimensions: (1) flexibility and innovation in IEL agreement models, with a focus on trade agreements, that better integrate economic and social development goals and allow parties to adapt to new circumstances or phase in commitments on a more incremental basis; (2) flexibility in implementation of trade disciplines and agreements; and (3) legal and regulatory innovation that can both define and flow from IEL agreements. These three dimensions take into account both treaties themselves and how they relate to changes in law and regulation in practice, drawing a link between international agreements and their operation that is particularly important in times of change or uncertainty. In assessing dimension three, legal and regulatory innovation, which has been a focus of my work over the past decade,