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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter
United Kingdom
349.   The UK has continued to engage in evidence-based discussions within the TRIPS Council. We have done this in good faith, wanting to get to the heart of the issue and to understand how this proposal can meet our shared objectives of preventing, containing, and treating COVID-19. Recently, in response to communication document IP/C/W/672, we asked a number of questions relating to the proposal. However, answers to these questions remain outstanding. To move forward with evidence-based discussion, it is vital these questions be answered, and we remain ready to engage with delegations in all available channels. 350.   We have seen the intellectual property framework support innovation and collaboration in the form of R&D, manufacturing agreements and other technology transfer efforts. It is a framework that can continue to support the equitable global supply of quality and safe vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. 351.   We encourage Members and stakeholders to focus on the following key issues with regards to the most immediate task, inoculating the world. How many more vaccines are required to meet global need? What is the most efficient way to do this? Where are global efforts falling short? How do we take concrete and realistic next steps? How do we ensure vaccines are safe and effective? 352.   The way ahead lies within the framework of multilateral rules. These rules have already been shown to support and encourage research and innovation while at the same time allowing licensing agreements that help to scale up manufacturing of medical products. Enabled by the TRIPS Agreement, and encouraged by its trusted collaborations, Astra Zeneca has licensed over a dozen large-scale manufacturers, including partnerships to produce up to 1.2bn doses specifically for low- and middle-income countries. It continues to enter into partnerships to scale up manufacturing, technology transfer under a licensing model which has delivered during the pandemic. The UK considers focusing on voluntary licensing and partnership models is an important part of the solution we are all striving for: saving lives and ending the pandemic as quickly as possible. 353.   We are pleased to see industries', both developers and manufacturers, continued emphasis on availability of vaccines and the role of industry partnerships in delivering this solution. Supply-chain bottleneck issues were recently explored at a summit on 8 and 9 March 2021 convened by the key stakeholders in these efforts. Looking carefully at how to build resilient supply chains, that develop and make the most of trusted partnerships, will be crucial as we continue to meet global vaccine needs including through the WHO COVAX facility. 354.   The UK is pleased to see COVAX beginning to have a real-world impact with the first deliveries of vaccines making it to Ghana earlier this month, closely followed by deliveries to other countries across Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. 355.   Recently, at the G7 leaders' call, the UK announced that it will share the majority of future surplus vaccine doses with COVAX. Leaders also made additional commitments of over USD 4.3 billion to the ACT-Accelerator and its COVAX facility. This will support COVAX in striving towards its target to provide 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to 92 developing countries in the course of 2021. The Oxford-developed vaccine produced by AstraZeneca and its partners is a key element of the COVAX facility. The partnerships span across the world with fruitful engagements for example in China, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, South Korea and India. As discussed at the General Council last week, we, together with industry and stakeholders around the world, should look to these licensing and partnership models. 356.   In addition to those immediate efforts, we are ready to explore what role the TRIPS Council may play now and in the longer term. The UK remains committed to working to support the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting the scale-up of manufacturing to meet global needs for diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics as part of the multilateral IP framework will be a concrete way to achieve this. We look forward to continuing our evidence-based discussions to this end.
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