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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter (South Africa)
308.   My delegation would like to commend you and the WTO Secretariat for having organized this formal session of the TRIPS Council. We thank for the work progressively being devoted to this issue, and for your tremendous effort in guiding our work, and we would like to appreciate the constructive engagement of the WTO Members. We support all previous statements delivered by India, South Africa, as well as those from the Co-sponsors and Members who constructively addressed this issue. 309.   COVID-19 pandemic continues to kill and threaten people, unfortunately, a year after it has first been identified… Up to now, there is no any single medical product that can ensure the treatment and elimination of the COVID-19 pandemic, and, being so, continues to be the most recent world's most challenging disease facing the existence of the human beings everywhere. Vaccines are the only available resources being administered in view to save people's lives. Within this struggle, developing countries including LDC's, SVE's and SIDs, are the ones suffering more as, by no way they can at least minimise the dramatic situation faced due to COVID-19. 310.   The limitation of vaccines for covering the urgent needs including therapeutics, diagnosis kits, preventives and others, can, in our point of view, be solved only if made possible that producers from various more countries be given chance and allowed to engage to produce either individually, or by involving partnering with others to massively advance to action towards production. 311.   We commend and thank the Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for her reference during the General Council,… to the need for an urgent collective engagement and work, in order to foster the response to COVID19 crisis, an encouraging signal. 312.   We would like to reiterate our appeal for a constructive engagement and positive consideration of the request for a temporary TRIPS Waiver on certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, so that producers in condition to do so, can join their efforts and start to produce and substantially contribute, to respond to the huge existing needs, and cover the world demand. 313.   As colleagues who intervened before us referred to, we totally agree with the need and urgency to advance to a text based discussion and to continue with the informal meetings on this matter, so as to enable a thorough debate and advancements on this so important issue. This intervention is aligned with the ones from Africa, LDCs and OACP Groups of countries. 314.   Finally, allow us to humbly express our gratitude to all our partners who have tirelessly been assisting Mozambique to fight COVID-19, including assistance in other challenging issues.
The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to revert to the matter at its next meeting.
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