When comparing CBD and TRIPS, one is obviously comparing two very different agreements, which deal with very different issues and have a different focus. Yet, for a better understanding, the following essential and simple distinctions between them can be pointed out:
• Countries need to enact their own legislation in order to make either of these agreements operational at the national level, but in case of TRIPS, the process tends to be driven by large -often multinational- corporations and by pressure from certain developed countries, while the initiative to develop legislation for implementing the CBD usually arises from national concerns and interests;
• There is a powerful international mechanism to ensure that countries comply with their obligations under TRIPS; a comparable enforcement mechanism does not exist with regard to obligations under the CBD;
• The CBD mainly deals with public rights, many of which are not well-defined; in fact, their articulation is largely left to the State - thus rights may differ considerably among countries. TRIPS on the other hand deals with well-defined private rights;
• TRIPS provides fairly precise (minimum) standards, whereas the CBD only lays down general principles and broad guidelines.
However, while a discussion on differences and potential conflicts between the two agreements may sharpen the understanding of these treaties, most countries -including most developing countries- have ratified both. Thus, they will have to develop appropriate national policies and laws to implement their commitments under both these treaties in the way that best suits the national interest.