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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter
Chad on behalf of Least-developed countries

436.   First of all, on behalf of the LDC Group, I would like to reiterate, Chair, my sincere thanks for the effectiveness with which you have always conducted our work and for your excellent management of this Council. We need your guidance to further strengthen the multilateral training system. The LDC Group has had the great pleasure of work with you and will continue in that same spirit with your successor. 437.   In our view, within the WTO, we have a green light, sometimes yellow, but certainly not red. Why do I say this? Because we already know the date of the next Ministerial Conference which will take place in Geneva at the end of 2021. We also know that the WTO leadership has put itself to work, and that gives us a very encouraging and promising idea about the future of the WTO. We hope that this atmosphere will help us to obtain excellent results. The LDC Group has always underlined that the WTO is an essential organization and if it did not exist it would have to be invented. Luckily it exists. For us, the LDC Group, the WTO has a very important role to play in favouring the existence of a global multilateral system which is open, fair, transparent, regulated, predictable and non-discriminatory. Our proposal is very much along those lines. Accepting the LDC proposal would help the most fragile Members in their difficult task of development and strengthen the credibility of the WTO itself. 438.   As to the subject of our communication, the LDC Group demonstrated rationality during the TRIPS Council meeting held in October 2020. We would like to thank all the Members for understanding of the needs of the LDCs. The LDC Group would like to answer the questions raised by certain Members, but before we do, we would like to remind Members of the urgent nature of this request, which is very duly motivated. The transition period of the TRIPS Agreement in Article 66.1 will expire on 1 July 2021. We appreciate the favourable comments by Members and hope that we will be able to undertake consultations under the leadership of the Chair of the TRIPS Council as soon as possible. 439.   As to the question concerning the relationship between the LDC proposal on graduation which was submitted to the General Council and this proposal before the TRIPS Council, which both refer to a transition period of 12 years after graduation. Obviously, the proposal before the General Council is broader because it includes all the agreements affecting LDCs following their graduation. The proposal before the TRIPS Council is specific to Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement. 440.   The evidence shows that when Members negotiate in two places, they are very careful to avoid any duplication. We chose to follow the path of the TRIPS Council where the process of preparing specific rules is essential to the general rules of the General Council. 441.   As to the 12-year transition period, it is very important to underline that our choice is not arbitrary. To the contrary, we spoke with Members of our group and selected this period to take into account the timelines that LDC Members would face following graduation. Our focal point from Bangladesh will develop this argument further. 442.   Finally, the LDC Group does not intend with this proposal to replace the existing waiver on pharmaceutical products for LDCs. We note that the waiver for pharmaceutical products was introduced in Doha in 2001 and was dealt with separately from a global transition period for TRIPS under Article 66.1. The two waivers operate on separate axes. 443.   It is very important that we agree on the consultation process in order for Members to be able to make progress well before the transition period expires. The expiration of this extremely important transition period would be a great disappointment for the WTO. The LDC Group is ready to undertake consultations with the membership in view of a positive outcome. 444.   The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on LDCs, including those who are about to graduate. LDC exports have been severely affected, the prices of basic goods are declining, supply chains have been disrupted and the tourism industry is mostly dead. It is therefore very likely that LDCs will encounter a balance of payment crisis. In order to overcome the difficulties they face, which have been amplified by COVID-19 pandemic, LDCs need a sufficient margin of manoeuvre to access diverse technologies, educational resources, and other tools essential to their development. The price of most products protected by intellectual property rights go beyond the purchasing power of LDCs. 445.   As we have underlined in our submission, if the need to develop productive capacity is an ongoing need for all LDCs, including LDCs about to graduate, the availability of a solid and reliable technological base is absolutely essential. In order to build this base in all LDCs, we need a new extension of the transition period with a maximum amount of flexibility. The LDCs submit this duly motivated request to extend the transition period expiring on 1 July 2021 and ask the TRIPS Council to adopt the text proposed by the LDC Group. This is what I wanted to say on behalf of the LDC Group. Perhaps my colleague from Bangladesh will complement what I have just said.

60. The Chair recalled that the transition period for least-developed country Members had been extended twice; most recently, by the TRIPS Council decision of 11 June 2013, and was currently set to expire on 1 July 2021, which was in less than four months' time. Regarding extensions of this period, the second sentence of Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement provided that "The Council for TRIPS shall, upon duly motivated request by a least developed country Member, accord extensions of this period."
61. The LDC Group had circulated its request for an extension on 1 October 2020. Since then, she had held small-group consultations on this issue on 22 December 2020 and on 10 February 2021. From these consultations, her impression was that delegations were in principle favourable to extending the transition period for LDCs. As regards the specific modalities of such extension, some delegations expressed full support for the extension as requested, some expressed a preference for extending the period for a limited number of years, and others had additional questions on how the request for a transition period for graduated LDCs related to Article 66.1.
62. She reminded delegations of the limited time remaining before the current transition period expired and urged them to focus their interventions on any specific outstanding questions they might have, and to consider making concrete suggestions on possible outcomes, with a view to adopting a decision on extension at the next TRIPS Council meeting in June 2021.
63. The representatives of Chad, on behalf of the LDC Group; Bangladesh, on behalf of the LDC Group; the United Kingdom; South Africa; Chile; Tanzania, on behalf of the African Group; Turkey; China; India; Australia; Switzerland; the United States of America; Egypt; the European Union; Chinese Taipei; Tunisia; Japan; Indonesia; Nepal; and the Holy See took the floor.
64. The Chair proposed that the Council request the incoming Chair to hold consultations on this matter, with a view to working towards a concrete outcome for the June meeting.
65. 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