By entering into FTAs with the developed countries, developing countries see some advantages in tariff reductions on agricultural, clothing and other products. In return, developed countries seek better market access and investment opportunities for products and services of their interest.
In addition, developed countries also seek to raise the minimum levels of protection for IPRs as they have a comparative advantage in technology products and services. At the same time, developing countries find it difficult to put forward the issues of their concern through the FTA negotiations including the harmonisation of TRIPS and CBD, access to medicines, and protection against the bio-piracy of their biological genetic resources, farmers’ rights and associated traditional knowledge, ability of their farmers to continue their subsistence and livelihood related farming practices and getting the same level of protection for their geographical indications as for wines and spirits of developed countries.
As a consequence, FTAs create an imbalanced set of rights and obligations in favour of developed countries by ratcheting up the levels of IPR protection. While it can be argued that there is no bar on developing countries in walking away from unequal agreements, it can also be argued that owing to unequal negotiating strengths, many bilateral agreements do turn out to be unequal. If the immediate need to benefit from reduced tariffs, etc. is high then a developing country can be guided into making concessions in areas of longer term impact such as IPRs