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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter (South Africa)
501.   My delegation would like to associate with the statement delivered by Chad and Bangladesh on behalf of the LDC Group and wishes to add some points. 502.   The WTO is for inclusive trade with the broad objectivee of raising living standards, reaching full employment, high real income and effective demand, and expanding the production of, and trade in, goods and services. 503.   While considering the volume of international trade and size of global GDP, the LDCs may not be visible on the map. However, while measuring the size of the world's population and, more importantly, the number of poor people to feed, LDCs are the main areas seen clearly on the map. 504.   About 0.96% share of the world's merchandise exports and about 0.71% of the world's commercial services exports are covered by the LDCs, which is disappointing since they represent about 13% of the world population and have a special responsibility for 31% of the world poor, which is considerable. The LDCs continue to face numerous difficulties in reaching their development goals, as well as in the effective implementation of global commitments. 505.   The high degree of vulnerability from which the LDCs suffer, both to economic and climate shocks, has caused significant setbacks to their progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 506.   The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated challenges for the LDCs in their socioeconomic transformation. It is evident that the pandemic will have far-reaching implications for the global economy and especially for LDCs, including those on the path to graduation. Exports of LDCs are expected to be severely affected; primary commodities prices are in decline; supply chains are disrupted; and the tourism industry is largely at a standstill. 507.   In this context, without meaningful support and bold policy actions from the international community, achieving LDC graduation and the SDGs in a timely manner will likely be out of reach. The LDCs are not able to adopt the latest technology to revive their productivity growth, especially in the present era of the digital economy. The huge digital gap has become an obstacle to reaping benefits from e-commerce and the digital economy. LDCs lag significantly far behind in science, technology and innovation. 508.   In this context, implementing TRIPS provisions will be much beyond our capacity. Therefore, we need a continuing exemption from the TRIPS Agreement in order to be able to grow economically viable industrial and technological sectors; consolidate capacity; and work out ways to connect and gain from the technological value chain. Sufficient policy space is necessary to overcome the difficulties faced by the LDCs in this pandemic situation. 509.   In this context, the LDC Group has submitted a duly motivated request entitled "Extension of the Transition Period under TRIPS Article 66.1 for least developed country Members". My delegation extends its sincere appreciation to all Members for their overwhelming support for our proposal in all the meetings of this Council while discussing this agenda item. 510.   No LDC intends to remain in its current status forever. Therefore, motivating all LDCs towards graduation by providing maximum flexibilities and support is urgently needed. Graduation is just a threshold with some artificially designed indicators while several other aspects of socio-economic development remain untouched. 511.   Graduation presents additional challenges in trade and development. Graduated countries have a great risk of falling back into the LDC category if their progress is not sustained. Therefore, LDC-specific flexibilities must continue to apply after graduation and be phased out progressively. The globally accepted principle of "smooth transition" needs to be acknowledged. The continuation of support measures such as a longer transition period is essential not only to sustain graduation but also to motivate LDCs towards graduation. Furthermore, this extension would not restrict any LDC from undertaking to implement the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement early, in view of their unique context. 512.   Additionally, increased technology transfer under Article 66.2 and other support measures as reflected in Article 67 of the Agreement would be highly supportive to enable LDCs to effectively implement the TRIPS Agreement. My delegation would like to call upon all Members to extend your valuable support and accord extensions as per our submission.
The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to revert to the matter at its next meeting.
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