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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter
333.   "The humanitarian, social and economic need for an effective global response to the pandemic is beyond question. This includes ensuring equitable access worldwide to safe and effective COVID19 vaccines and other medical products. New Zealand is committed to this goal as a COVAX participant and donor, and through our support for vaccine access in the Pacific. We remain open to exploring all options for addressing equitable access that need, including this Waiver Proposal, and therefore supports the continued discussion of the proposal. 334.   In our view, these discussions should focus on the need to increase the world's capacity to manufacture and quickly distribute COVID-19 vaccines. As the Director-General has noted, the world has a normal vaccine manufacturing capacity of 3.5 billion doses per year. This need to significantly increase if we are to tackle COVID-19 globally. The emergence of new virulent strains has taught us that no one is safe from the virus until everyone is protected. How do we do that quickly and effectively? Clearly, any new manufacturer and distributor will need to be able to operate without infringing intellectual property rights. However, we cannot consider this factor on its own. 335.   The expansion of manufacturing and distribution capacity will also likely depend on the ability to attract investment, secure relevant technology transfer and expertise, ensure the necessary safety, efficacy and regulatory standards are met and ensure links into relevant supply chains. We know that intellectual property may be relevant to each of these factors. We also need to consider any impact on incentives to innovate which could affect our ability to address the evolution of this pandemic or any future public health emergency. 336.   Therefore, while it is important that the TRIPS Council shows leadership in relation to intellectual property, it is also important that individual elements of the manufacturing capacity issue are not considered in isolation. We should be further exploring the role the WTO can play in fostering increased manufacturing capacity and solving distribution challenges. We took note, as I'm sure all Members did, of the comments our new Director-General made on the work that can be done to improve access to vaccines while we continue to discuss the Waiver Proposal in this forum. We hope the WTO takes opportunities to collaborate with the WHO and others to understand how IP settings impact manufacturing scale-up. Closer collaboration with industry –manufacturers, IPR holders, and those who currently hold licenses – is also vital in us pursuing an effective response to the pandemic. 337.   We therefore look forward to continuing to work with Members to understand and address concerns about intellectual property providing a barrier to increasing the net availability of vaccines and other products. In doing so we will look to be informed by insight arising from these broader activities".
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