Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter
European Union
520.   The EU would like to thank South Africa for introducing this agenda item. 521.   The world quickly needs to develop and deploy effective diagnostics, safe and effective treatments and vaccines, which are available and accessible everywhere, at an affordable price. This is the only way to make sure we can jointly defeat the virus. 522.   It is clear that broad and equitable access to existing and new treatments, and ultimately vaccines, will be key to tackle the present public health crisis, including for developing countries that have no production capacities or more limited financial resources. 523.   It is with this objective in mind that the EU has led "The Coronavirus Global Response" pledging initiative with the WHO and global partners to accelerate the development, production and deployment of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, and to strengthen national health systems against COVID-19. The EU has also led the work on a Resolution on COVID-19 Response, adopted by the 73rd World Health Assembly on 19 May 2020. This resolution represents a strong commitment of the global community to international cooperation in fighting the pandemic and ensuring access to COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. 524.   Global cooperation is essential to accelerate the development and scale-up the production of safe, effective, quality diagnostics, medicines and vaccines for the COVID-19 response, including through arrangements with industry and existing mechanisms for voluntary pooling of rights and licensing. 525.   Pooling of rights and other voluntary licensing arrangements allow to accelerate the development of diagnostics, medicines and vaccines for COVID-19 and scaling up their production. These mechanisms benefit everyone as they drive both access and innovation. 526.   The TRIPS Agreement provides various avenues to address potential IP matters in the case of health emergencies should voluntary mechanisms fail, not only with regard to patents, but also with regard to other IP rights. These include general clauses on exceptions or provisions on compulsory licensing. 527.   In the European Union these provisions are implemented either at regional or national level. For example, the areas of copyright, trademarks, designs and trade secrets are largely harmonised at regional level, including provisions on exceptions and limitations. On the other hand, the granting of compulsory licences in the area of patents is regulated at national level - each EU Member State has relevant legislation and is able to issue a compulsory licence at national level. 528.   The EU has consistently supported the use, where necessary and justified, of the flexibilities provided under the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha Declaration with the objective of ensuring effective access to medicines. 529.   We also recall that the TRIPS Council Secretariat has, regularly and consistently, offered its services to any WTO Member that sees itself in the need of getting help to manage the process of Article 31bis of the TRIPS Agreement. 530.   The innovation model, based on patents, has delivered consistent progress in global public health, continuously leading to important new and improved treatments as well as much extended life expectancy, tackling the global health challenges humanity faced so far. The EU considers that on the basis of the current system, with the necessary IP tools and arrangements in place, existing and new treatments, and ultimately vaccines, can be made available and effectively deployed rapidly across the globe. 531.   A well-functioning ecosystem for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights remains a crucial incentive for innovation, the research and development of new vaccines, medicines and treatments. 532.   Let us also recall that evidence shows that indeed there are many different significant causes of lack of access to medicines. It is no different in the case of COVID-19. There are no simple solutions to the current crisis. We need the necessary expertise in production of new treatments or vaccines, we need sufficient manufacturing capacity and access to resources needed to produce such treatments or vaccines. 533.   It is the view of the European Union that in order to ensure equitable and affordable access to the required treatments and vaccines, we must work collaboratively with industry and with each other, incentivise innovative solutions to COVID-19, ramp up manufacturing capacity and pool resources. 534.   There is another aspect in the fight with COVID-19 that we would like to highlight in this discussion. 535.   A report by Europol titled 'Viral Marketing – counterfeits, substandard goods and intellectual property crime in the COVID-19 pandemic' shows that organised crime groups quickly adapt to the new trade environment and find their way to infiltrate the legitimate supply chain of pharmaceutical products and equipment. A study of the European Union Intellectual Property Office and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on Trade in counterfeit pharmaceutical products shows the economic and social costs of trade in fake medicines and the threat to public health. 536.   The surge in demand for anti-COVID-19 products poses heightened risks to public health, because fake and substandard products, such as unproven and fake treatments, test kits and medical equipment and supplies – masks, ventilators, gloves, etc. – have flooded the market and this is bound to get worse when the new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines will be available. 537.   Due to the global nature of these crimes, global cooperation is necessary. 538.   Public health in light of the pandemic is a clear and undisputed priority. No effort must be spared to obtain effective and affordable treatment, vaccines, tests and medical devices necessary to fight this pandemic and to ensure that these products are safe for our citizens. These efforts have to be sustained for as long as needed.
The Council took note of the statements made.
55.   The Chair said that this item had been put on the agenda at the request of South Africa. A communication concerning had been circulated in document IP/C/W/666. She invited South Africa to introduce the item.
56.   The representative of South Africa took the floor to introduce the item.
57.   The representatives of Nigeria; Indonesia; Chile; Tanzania, on behalf of the African Group; Colombia; China; Malaysia; Zimbabwe; India; Chinese Taipei; Canada; the United Kingdom; the European Union; Ecuador; Australia; Switzerland; the United States of America; Sri Lanka; Japan; and the WHO took the floor.
58.   The Council took note of the statements made.
IP/C/M/95, IP/C/M/95/Add.1