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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter
15 PROPOSAL FOR A WAIVER FROM CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE TRIPS AGREEMENT FOR THE PREVENTION, CONTAINMENT AND TREATMENT OF COVID-19
1429.   Pakistan would like to thank you for convening this meeting and the opportunity to once again address this issue. At the outset, we would like to confirm that we agree with your proposed approach to report the status of our discussions to the General Council in its next meeting. We are also satisfied with the content of the report. We must emphasise, that while we are happy to debate and discuss the issue at length, this proposal is not one which can be discussed endlessly. When human lives are at stake, we must find definitive conclusions to our discussions as soon as possible. We would therefore, like to see a logical conclusion of the discussion with hopefully, some positive outcomes. 1430.   We have been discussing this proposal in great detail over the past weeks, and we are thankful to all the Members who have engaged positively on this burning issue. Along with other cosponsors, we have tried to address each and every concern, question or clarification brought by the Members submitted in oral statements or in formal, written communications. In fact, we aim to submit a written document containing answers to all the questions that we have addressed in preceding meetings and those that we will address in the present meeting. Meanwhile, we would like to request, that our statements and detailed responses presented during the informal sessions of the Council may please be made part of the formal record of the TRIPS Council's meetings. We would be happy to share our previous statements with the Secretariat along with this one. 1431.   While on the matter of responses, we would like to take this opportunity to address one of the points raised by a delegation in the last meetings. A few aspects have already been addressed by co-sponsored colleagues who have spoken before. It was mentioned, during the informal consultations and in the present meeting, that advance purchase agreements contributed to expanding production calling on companies to use licensing mechanisms to maximise production. Reference was made to Astra Zeneca's license with Serum Institute. 1432.   In our view, the race to secure vaccine supplies through advance purchase agreements is in fact, reinforcing inequitable access to vaccines. Even if production is being expanded, it seems to be for the benefit of a few wealthy nations. As reported openly, all of Moderna's vaccine and 96% of Pfizer/BioNTech's has been acquired by rich countries. It has also been reported that wealthy nations representing just 14% of the world's population have bought up fifty-three (53%) of all the most promising vaccines so far. According to several reports, some countries have already made arrangements to acquire up to nine doses per person, while among 70 developing or poor countries, only one out of every ten people will be vaccinated by the end of 2021 given the limitations of the COVAX facility. It is also estimated that many lower income countries could have to wait until 2023 or 2024 for vaccination. 1433.   This situation reveals a lack of global cooperation and solidarity to ensure equitable access and allocation. More specifically, IP monopolies are limiting vaccine production and equitable access. Regarding Astra Zeneca's license, it must be emphasised that the license is limited, and insufficient to meet global need. Their pledge to provide doses to developing nations, can only reach 18% of the world's population next year at most according to estimates. Besides, Astra Zeneca's CEO has reportedly opposed any public sharing of technology and IP. 1434.   While we appreciate the idea of asking companies to voluntarily license and maximise production, the strategy does not deliver access. A recent study on the lessons learned from voluntary licensing also demonstrates that IP-holding corporations tend to apply restrictive licensing terms such as limited geographic coverage of supply and other conditions that limit the benefits of competition and global supply. We have already seen this happening during the pandemic. The global pharma industry has also objected to participation in WHO's COVID Technology Access Pool, as mentioned by a colleague before. 1435.   In this situation, perhaps a question needs to be raised: how would countries that argue for such licensing arrangements, address companies' conduct and ensure the availability of nonexclusive, global, open licenses on reasonable terms and conditions, where all manufacturers globally may be engaged and all countries may benefit from supply without any restrictions. Also, what steps are those countries taking to ensure full transparency and accountability in the cost of R&D and in licensing agreements. 1436.   The waiver proposal is seeking a limited-time, and limited-scope waiver from certain obligations under the TRIPS Agreement only to deal with the global pandemic. The waiver not only promises to help large populations in developing countries, but would also allow export of medicines and medical equipment back to developed countries where poorer segments of their populations could also benefit. The present, business as usual approach, on the other hand, could perpetuate existing global inequalities even in this unprecedented time. 1437.   In recent weeks, we have noted that not only has the engagement on the issue gained momentum, the proposal has also been continually gaining wide appeal outside our organisation. Global leaders, influential lawmakers, public health experts, leading civil society Members, and wellreputed media houses, particularly from developed countries have all come out in support of this proposal. Members of the academia, international, governmental and non-governmental organisations, and many social and religious groups have all highlighted the pressing importance and merits of the proposal. We are happy to note that even the WTO has covered it briefly in its news. We hope the Secretariat will continue to provide due coverage to this most important matter. The extensive international coverage, across developed and developing countries alike, is testimony to the importance and validity of the proposed waiver. 1438.   In conclusion, we would like to thank you and the Secretariat and all Members for their engagement and attention to this pressing matter. We look forward to continuing our discussions in the coming days.
84. The Chair said that this item had been put on the agenda at the request of India and South Africa; and a communication had been circulated. She invited India and South Africa to introduce their proposal.
85. The representatives of India and South Africa took the floor.
86. The Chair invited Members to take the floor.
87. The representatives of Kenya; Nigeria; Bangladesh; Sri Lanka; Pakistan; the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela; Nepal; Philippines; Nicaragua; Chile; Turkey; Egypt; Indonesia; Argentina; Chad, on behalf of the LDC Group; China; Thailand; Tunisia; Tanzania, on behalf of the African Group; Ecuador; Senegal; Costa Rica; Mauritius; Colombia; El Salvador; Mali; Jamaica; the European Union; the United States of America; Switzerland; Japan; Norway; the United Kingdom; Brazil; Mozambique; Canada; Australia; Honduras; the Holy See; the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) took the floor.
88. The Chair invited the Secretariat to share procedural requirements.
89. The representative of the Secretariat took the floor.
90. The representative of the United States of America took the floor.
91. The Chair noted that the proposal had been submitted to the Council on 2 October 2020. Thus, the 90-day time-period would expire on 31 December 2020. For practical purposes, this would mean that the last opportunity for the Council to adopt the report envisaged by Article IX:3 (b) of the Marrakech Agreement, was before the end-year-break in December. In order to facilitate reconvening the Council to consider a report in this regard, she proposed to keep the agenda item open. She encouraged Members to further consult on the proposal and explore possibilities to bridge the gap.
92. The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to keep the agenda item open.
93. At the Council for TRIPS' reconvened formal meeting of 10 December 2020, the Chair reported that, on 20 November and on 3 December, she had convened the Council in informal open-ended mode to take stock of developments since the suspension in October, and to continue the consideration of the agenda item in informal mode. At these meetings delegations had highlighted their common goal of providing access to high-quality, safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines and medicines for all. Delegations had also exchanged views, sought clarifications and provided information on the operation, implementation and impact of the requested waiver during these meetings.
94. The Chair said she also held consultations in the time-period between 26 November and 1 December, in order to seek delegations' views on (a) what kind of report the TRIPS Council could likely agree on at today's meeting, and (b) how substantive engagement could be further facilitated, given the importance of meaningful and focused discussions on the substance of the proposal. In these consultations she had detected an emerging agreement that the TRIPS Council should provide a communication to the General Council that would be neutral and factual, and reflect the state of play of discussions and the absence of consensus on the waiver proposal in the TRIPS Council at this time. Delegations had also seen a need to continue discussions on the matter within the TRIPS Council.
95. On the basis of these consultations, and after discussions in the informal open-ended meeting on 3 December, an agenda item for a status report on the consideration of the waiver request was put on the proposed agenda of the next General Council meeting scheduled for 1617 December. During the informal meeting of 3 December, the Chair had circulated draft language for such an oral status report with an invitation to Members to comment on this language by 7 December. On the basis of the comments that were received by the deadline, she had held further consultations on 8 and 9 December, and had circulated a revised draft status report.
96. In light of these informal meetings and consultations, she proposed the Council agree that she would deliver an oral status report to the General Council as follows:
At the meeting of the TRIPS Council on 15-16 October 2020, India and South Africa introduced document IP/C/W/669, requesting a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19, which had been circulated on 2 October 2020 and has since been co-sponsored by the delegations of Kenya, Eswatini, Pakistan, Mozambique, and Bolivia. The Council continued its discussions under that agenda item at its resumed meeting on 10 December 2020.
At those meetings, and at informal meetings on 20 November and 3 December, delegations highlighted the common goal of providing access to high-quality, safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines and medicines for all. Delegations exchanged views, sought clarifications and provided information on the waiver request but could not reach consensus. Delegations indicated a need for further discussions on the waiver request and views exchanged by delegations.
This means that the TRIPS Council has not yet completed its consideration of the waiver request and may not be able to do so within the 90 days stipulated in Article IX:3 of the Marrakesh Agreement. Therefore, the TRIPS Council will continue its consideration of the waiver request and report back to the General Council as stipulated in Article IX:3 of the Marrakesh Agreement.
97. The Council so agreed.
98. The Chair thanked all delegations, particularly those involved in the consultations, for the constructive spirit in which they had engaged in the discussions on this report. As regards the TRIPS Council's next steps, she noted that the next regular meeting is scheduled for 1011 March 2021. In order to allow for further consideration of the waiver request in the more immediate future, she proposed that the Council reserve 19 January and 4 February 2021 for meetings of the Council that could be dedicated to the discussion of the waiver request. The next regular meeting – with the usual complete agenda – would remain scheduled for 10-11 March.
99. The Council so agreed.
100. The representatives of Malaysia, Canada, Chile, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Chad, Norway, Turkey, Singapore, Viet Nam, Eswatini, Egypt, Indonesia, the European Union, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Oman, Mauritius, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Ukraine, the United States of America, Ecuador, the Republic of Korea, El Salvador, New Zealand, Mozambique, Brazil, Jamaica, India, Pakistan, Switzerland, Israel, Colombia, Bangladesh, Tanzania, on behalf of the African Group, Botswana, South Africa, Nepal and Vanuatu took the floor.
IP/C/M/96, IP/C/M/96/Add.1