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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter
83.   We thank you for your report on this very important matter, South Africa would like to join others to thank the Secretariat for maintaining and updating the list of IP measures that Members have taken in respect of COVID-19. We believe it is an important exercise in transparency that this item continues to appear on the agenda of the TRIPS Council meeting. Whereas it is noteworthy that many of the measures contained on the list have been verified with the Member concerned but not notified. 84.   It is understandable that it is not always possible to immediately notify such measures, however we would encourage Members that have taken measures to notify them as soon as possible. My delegation has been at pains to emphasise the enormity of the challenges presented by COVID-19, limiting discussions on this agenda item only to national measures would not do justice to the interest that all Members have to discuss all systemic and related concerns. It is therefore suggested that this agenda item not be limited only to discussion of national measures but also the broader impact that COVID19 may be having on the IP landscape in general. We need to continue to discuss COVID19 in its broader context. COVID-19 is taking its toll on all countries, including in Africa. 85.   A second wave of the virus has started to engulf various countries with new and stricter lockdown measures being reintroduced. What is clear is that the pandemic is here to stay and will have long term implications for the IP policy landscape. As we already indicated, COVID-19 treatment and vaccines alone will not solve our problems, focusing on individual measures will not work, the pandemic requires bold collective action and discussion. Keeping this item on the agenda as a broader platform to share not only national experiences but to talk about the systemic implications of COVID-19 for our collective well-being is the most useful way to approach this agenda item. 86.   I am an African, hence my heart and concern are most attuned to what is happening on my continent, as many of our Members are reaching their peak or have just passed their respective peaks, the long-term consequence of COVID-19 for developing countries cannot be underestimated. In the developed world, there is infrastructure and capacity to deal with the most immediate impacts of the virus, but despite this capacity the loss of life has been staggering. Developing countries have even less capacity to deal with the pandemic. Lockdowns for poor nations mean that people cannot work, there is no luxury to telecommute, no ventilators for critically ill patients or financial packages to bail of struggling industries. 87.   The impacts of COVID-19 disproportionately affect developing countries. When Scipio Africanus came to Africa during the Punic wars between Rome and Carthage, he uttered the famous phrase: Carthago delenda est! I think in our context it would be appropriate to say 'COVID delenda est'! We can only defeat COVID-19 through collective actions that are inclusive and that targets those who are most affected by its impact. This Council remains the best place to have this discussion, we therefore would be in favour of maintaining this item on the agenda and not restricted only to a consideration of national IP measures.
14. The Chair recalled that this agenda item had been on the agenda of the Council's informal openended meeting on 19 June, and the last formal meeting on 30 July 2020. At her informal consultations in September 2020, she had asked Members how they would like to take this topic forward. In response, there had been general appreciation among delegations for the Secretariat's work in maintaining the list of COVID-19 related IP measures on the WTO website, and broad support for a continued discussion and exchange based on this compilation. Some delegations had stressed that the discussion should focus on national measures and their implementation, while others had been of the view that a more substantive discussion was warranted.
15. Considering the broad support, she had proposed to continue the exchange of information at the present meeting. She encouraged Members to reflect on how the Council could take the discussion forward and whether it should keep this agenda item, given the continued interest by Members to continue to exchange views as the pandemic persists. She referred to the compilation "COVID-19: Measures Regarding Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights", available from the WTO website. It was a non-exhaustive list of IP-related measures taken in the context of COVID-19, compiled by the Secretariat from official sources and verified by the relevant Members. The list was updated continuously. She encouraged Members to inform the Secretariat of any measures that should be included on this list, as well as any information on the expiration, or end of application, of such measures.
16. The representatives of South Africa; Chile; China; Nigeria; India; the European Union; Canada; Jamaica, on behalf of the ACP Group; the United States of America; and Indonesia took the floor.
17. The Chair noted that it was important for the Council to provide a forum for exchange as the pandemic continued and that she would like to provide another opportunity to do so at the upcoming Council meeting. She was aware of the sensitivities around "permanent" agenda items, so she would propose that the Council agree to revert to the item at its next meeting, so that the exchanges can once again take place, including on the basis of the updated Secretariat document of COVID-19 related IP measures.
18. The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to revert at its next meeting.
IP/C/M/96, IP/C/M/96/Add.1