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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter
12 PROPOSAL FOR A WAIVER FROM CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE TRIPS AGREEMENT FOR THE PREVENTION, CONTAINMENT AND TREATMENT OF COVID-19
247.   We would like to give some wishes to thank you once again for this opportunity to address the most important issue in the WTO at the moment. We also wish to commend you for your able stewardship allowing healthy frank and open exchange of views among Members. 248.   Pakistan recalls its statements made in all previous formal and informal meetings of this Council on this issue . Since October we started discussing this item, the situation has moved rapidly in the direction we had feared at the time. Yet it is not a result we feel happy to have predicted instead it is a failure on our part as the membership, and speaks of our inability to provide safe equitable and affordable access to vaccines and accentuations to all across the globe so far. 249.   Thereby we have accentuated the crises caused by the pandemic and created yet in other crises of vaccines and medicines in poor countries. We have consistently been highlighting the acute shortages of supply of vaccines, the unutilized capacity in developing countries and the tendency of big pharmaceutical companies to reap its exorbitant profits on the back of global health crises by protecting unnecessarily intellectual property technology and technical know-how. 250.   It is ironic and at the same time unfortunate to note that Members that dismissed an arguments and concerns at the time and had reportedly prepurchase enough doses of the vaccine to vaccinate the population multiple times over. And now faces the supply shortages are needing to resort to export restrictions and to highlight the limitations of the core accessibility some of the same Members are now pleading against export restrictions on vaccines and calling for voluntary sharing of technology and exchange of technical know-how. To those Members, we wish to ask how they would ensure the voluntary sharing and transfer of technology. 251.   Given that such voluntary sharing has only been possible by the private companies in arbitrary limited and secretive manner creating part of the problem we are facing. Would these Members force company to voluntarily share their technology and if so how this question is even more important with reports surfacing that the same pharmaceutical companies are lobbying with their governments to impose sanctions to countries that adopt compulsory license. 252.   We have heard alarming reports in the media that certain countries have developed patentfree vaccines several months ago as early as May 2020, yet. Instead of choosing to make it public the choice to sign with big farmer letting profits about public health. We have also learned that the big pharmaceutical companies are set to reap billions of dollars profits from these vaccines. By a charging insulated traces in keeping the intellectual property protected for years to come. We have also gathered that it is impossible for some members governments to restrict the monopolistic super profits of the large farmer companies. 253.   We have conducted research through government funding or free purchase agreements in the first days and now uses due to practices. Are we looking at situations of rent-seeking and state capture by large biggest lobbies at the expense of global public health? The key question here is the cost of global public health for all, which is private benefits for a very few. Even for businesses driven by profit maximization waters. We need to ask again does it even make economic sense to charge higher prices than restrict the scale of production or is it more beneficial to allow much greater care the production of a million of people at low prices with the added advantages of ensuring mass of availability. Export restrictions is becoming an issue when supplies are short. In the present situation at least we can be safe and assuming that there cannot be any overproduction if massive manufacturing is allowed. The easiest way to meet that happen is through the proposed waver. 254.   We will not repeat the much detailed questions and answers we are provided to the membership on the technical aspects of this waiver; both orally and in writing. Our statements and submissions made along with other co-sponsors are available on record. 255.   We only wish once again to alert the membership to the gravity of the situation. With vaccine holding and nationalism now quite established among the half and the famine of vaccines perpetuated among the half nots. 256.   With rising new restrains and scarcity of vaccines it is clear to us that the end to the pandemic we could have envisaged if not in sight at the moment. As an example, according to the Global Development Policy Centre of Austen University, the EU, US and UK make up 10.8% of the global population and have given 50% of the vaccinations administered so far. In stark contrast, Africa with 17% of global population has received only 1.5% of the vaccines. Large populations in developing Asia would have even a quarter of statistics to report. 257.   With discussions surrounding vaccine passports already in the offing we have to ask, how do we envisage travel restrictions and their impact on poor economy's dependent movements of neighbour. How do we envisage organizing our own Ministerial Conference in a few months when the majority of the membership would have extremely limited access to vaccines? Such questions present unimaginable scenarios which are not very pretty for global prosperity. In light of the urgency and importance of the matter, we put it once again to the membership to reflect on their positions on this river and come together to commend text-based discussions to find a solution sooner rather than later. The longer we wait the worn extends to acute we make this crisis. 258.   Pakistan is ready to engage in text based discussions at any level of formality of the text of the proposal with which other Members were to do so. We acknowledge that the Secretariat has created space for additional meetings and are certainly ready to engage indoors or even all meetings to find a solution to such matter. 259.   As the DG and several around the world have mentioned, business as usual cannot continue. We are heartened by the fact that the new Director-General has taken immediate cognizance of the problem. And now to submit any notions of triviality attached to the issue. We are hopeful that under the new leadership the organization should be able to engage better on this matter and come together to find a meaningful solution.
52. The Chair recalled that the "Proposal for A Waiver from Certain Provisions of The TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of Covid-19" had been circulated by India and South Africa on 2 October 2020. It had since been co-sponsored by the delegations of Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt and, most recently, by the African Group and the LDC Group.
53. At its previous meeting in February 2021, the Council had agreed to once again provide a "Status Report on the consideration by the TRIPS Council of the waiver proposal" to the General Council meeting of 1-2 March 2021. That Status Report had provided a factual overview of the waiver discussions in the Council and highlighted Members' common goal of providing timely and secure access to high-quality, safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines and medicines for all. It had reported that Members had exchanged views, asked questions, sought clarifications and provided replies, clarifications, and information, including through new documents, but had not been able to reach consensus, including on whether it was appropriate to move to text-based negotiations. Delegations had indicated a need for further discussions on the waiver request and views exchanged by delegations. The report had concluded that "[t]he TRIPS Council will therefore continue its consideration of the waiver request and report back to the General Council as stipulated in Article IX:3 of the Marrakesh Agreement."
54. The co-sponsors had signalled their openness to discuss the scope and duration of the waiver, as well as other questions delegations might have, in the context of text-based negotiations. Other delegations had emphasised a need for more discussions and were not ready to move towards textbased discussions. Members had also recognized the challenge arising from limited manufacturing capacity of vaccines and the inability of existing manufacturers to meet global demand. Members needed to engage in a candid and good-faith and evidence-based discussion on what was required to scale up global production in these unprecedented times of a public health crisis. She encouraged Members to engage in a result-oriented process that would contribute to an effective solution to boosting productive capacity for products that were essential to deal with COVID19 across the world. Swift action was required urgently to help scale up COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution. The Council needed to shift gears and move towards a solution-oriented discussion. The world was in desperate need for solutions. She urged delegations to work together and engage with this purpose in mind.
55. At the General Council meeting of 1 March 2021, the Director-General had said we need to do things differently. She had said "it cannot be business as usual. We have to change our approach from debate and rounds of questions to delivering results". She noted that she was not sensationalizing when she reminded delegations that it was a literally a life and death issue. People were dying at that very moment. She urged delegations to demonstrate their commitment to the overarching goals of universal and equitable access to COVID-19 medical products, not only in words, but through action. She wanted to remind Members of the heightened public interest and concern in this regard, that the world was watching, and that the Council should not fail.
56. There were a number of declarations and letters from civil society regarding the WTO's role in the COVID-19 pandemic, which had been made available on the WTO COVID-19 website under the section "Business/Society response". The previous day, she had received a letter from 'Global Nurses United', which would also be made available on that COVID-19 webpage.
57. She encouraged delegations to also address two issues in their interventions:
a. First, the practical question on how the Council should organize the consideration of this matter going forward. The next regular meeting of the TRIPS Council was scheduled for 89 June 2021. She encouraged delegations to share their views on how to consider the matter in the meantime, so that the Secretariat and the Chair can make any appropriate arrangements so that the Council can move swiftly to a balanced outcome and a landing zone on this urgent matter. The Secretariat had identified dates for possible additional meetings, which the incoming chair could use, depending on delegations' views; and
b. Secondly, whether and how to capture a number of shared understandings with respect to TRIPS flexibilities that had been highlighted. While Members were still discussing the waiver request, Members might wish to capture and communicate such shared understandings on the role of IP in the context of a pandemic, which could provide valuable elements for the broader understanding of the TRIPS Agreement; and might also provide positive guidance to prepare for future pandemics.
58. The representatives of India; Maldives; Zimbabwe; Qatar; Pakistan; Egypt; Nepal; Bangladesh; Vanuatu; Cuba; South Africa; Brazil; Ukraine; China; Nigeria; Mozambique; Jamaica; Tanzania, on behalf of the African Group; Chile; El Salvador; Cameroon, on behalf of the ACP Group; Colombia; New Zealand; Mongolia; Namibia; Canada; the United Kingdom; Switzerland; Japan; the European Union; Chinese Taipei; Indonesia; Singapore; Australia; the United States of America; and the World Health Organization took the floor.
59. The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to revert to the matter at its next meeting.
IP/C/M/98, IP/C/M/98/Add.1