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[BEIJING] France ranks highest in technology assistance to the developing world, according to a report analysing rich nations' aid to developing countries.

The 2007 Commitment to Development Index, produced annually by the Washington-based think-tank Center for Global Development (CGD), compares support provided to developing countries by 21 high-income, industrialised nations.

CGD analysed seven policy areas — environment, aid, trade, investment, migration, security and technology — each contributing equally to the overall ranking.

In the area of technology, the ranking considers policies supporting the creation and transfer of innovations of value to developing countries, such as medical technologies.

Policies forcing developing countries to rigidly abide by intellectual property rules negatively affected a country's ranking, as they may inhibit the international flow of innovations.

France, whose government spends one per cent of its gross domestic product on research and development, finished at the top in terms of technology aid, while Canada, whose policies on intellectual property are the least restrictive, placed second. Japan came third.

The United States ranked fourteenth because it has pressured poor nations not to issue compulsory licensing — allowing cheaper versions of drugs under patent to be produced for emergency situations — even for the public interest.

"The goal of the report is to push rich countries to give developing countries more assistance, by which I mean not just giving more foreign aid," says David Roodman, a research fellow at CGD and organiser of the index.

But Hu Guangyu, a researcher of aid policies at Tsinghua University in China, says the higher ranking of some nations in terms of technological aid does not necessarily lead to more effective technology transfer.

"Whether technologies from the developed world can promote social and economic prosperity in developing countries more frequently relies on the positive moves by the receivers to absorb and reshape these technologies to meet their own development," Hu told SciDev.Net.

The Netherlands ranked highest in the overall index, due to its large aid donations, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support for investment in developing countries.

Japan ranked the lowest because of the relatively small size of its aid contributions and tight regulations on the import of goods and immigration from poorer countries.