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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter
13 EXTENSION OF THE TRANSITION PERIOD UNDER ARTICLE 66.1 OF THE TRIPS AGREEMENT FOR LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRY MEMBERS
446.   Bangladesh supports the statement delivered by Chad on behalf of the LDCs. My delegation appreciates your kind efforts for facilitating discussion on this important submission during the informal consultations and in the regular meetings of the Council. 447.   During the October 2020 meeting of the Council, the LDC Group provided the rationale for this proposal. The LDC Group truly appreciates the overall sympathetic gesture and broad support from Members for this submission. The current transition period will end soon, and we request a positive outcome in favour of our proposal. 448.   As the LDC coordinator has indicated, my delegation now takes this opportunity to answer some of the queries that some delegations have made. There is a question, whether the LDC Group is asking for a permanent extension and why do they need an uncertain time "as long as an LDC" for this extension. We emphasize that the requested extension is not permanent. It is for "as long as a country remains an LDC" and then a specific period post-graduation. We stress that all LDCs aspire to graduate. No LDC wishes to permanently remain as an LDC. The proposed duration is also "certain". Once an LDC graduates, a specific transition period will apply. So, the requested extension is neither permanent nor uncertain. 449.   The next concern is why the LDCs need such an extension after graduation. Our group earlier responded to this question: The graduation criteria are based on GNI per capita, economic vulnerability and the human assets index. These criteria do not consider the development of a viable technological base and related productive capacities, which is a long-term process. These criteria also do not consider the various access challenges that are persistently and constantly faced even after an LDC graduates. Therefore, even upon graduation, a country will continue to need maximum policy space to develop its technological base and productive capacities. 450.   As a follow up, some Members have also demanded justification for the proposed 12-year length of the transition period after graduation. The LDC Group is willing to discuss this with Members if the proposal in principle is accepted. The LDCs after graduation should have policy space for a longer duration and the LDC Group considers that the proposed 12-year duration for extension is justified. 451.   The LDC coordinator has already responded to the question whether the LDC Group's proposal replaces the current pharmaceutical extension for the LDCs. My delegation would like to reemphasize that the LDC Group's duly motivated request is about the general transition period under Article 66.1 which covers all aspects of the TRIPS Agreement except for Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the Agreement. On the other hand, the pharmaceutical extension decision is specific to pharmaceutical products and related to Sections 5 and 7 of TRIPS. Both these decisions have been co-existing in a mutually supportive way since 2002. 452.   The LDCs comprise around 12% of the world population but account for less than 2% of world GDP and around 1% of world trade. Therefore, extending the transition period to countries as long as in the LDC category, and an additional 12 years after graduation from the LDC category, will not impact the global community but would greatly benefit the LDCs by putting them on a sustainable development path. Considering their present constraints and future needs, the LDCs are seeking policy space for a longer period under the TRIPS Agreement. The LDCs are demanding nothing new but are requesting to continue the flexibilities already given to them for a few more years to support their smooth transition. Moreover, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has severely heightened the vulnerability of LDCs to shocks beyond their control. The LDCs deserve special attention of the Members. 453.   In conclusion, Bangladesh requests the Council to take a positive decision on this submission as proposed. My delegation will stand ready to engage actively with the Members.
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