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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli (Norway)
201.   We would like to recall the introduction that South Africa made regarding the revised TRIPS Waiver Proposal (document IP/C/W/669/Rev.1) at the informal TRIPS Council meeting of 31 May 2021. As we speak, the pandemic continues to rage out of control. As co-sponsors we have on many occasions called for our negotiations to be brought to an expeditious end. During the last session of the TRIPS Council, we heard many Members favourably disposed to discussing the text which we presented. We heard that some Members were still studying the text or would revert during the today's meeting. Certainly, we are looking forward to hearing these particular views that are to be presented. 202.   We want to remind Members that ending the pandemic everywhere in a timely manner is a public good and should be an overarching priority for the WTO and its Members. Our expectation as co-sponsors is that we get into a line-by-line discussion of the revised TRIPS Waiver Proposal. We have been in discussions for eight months now, given the time sensitivity of the situation, we cannot allow our discussion to go beyond July without severe consequences not only for the WTO as such, but for the world at large. As a very quick check, as of 7 June 2021, we are in excess of 3.7 million fatalities as reported to the WHO. As of 5 June, the number of vaccine doses administered is around 1.9 billion doses. The economic consequences unleashed by COVID-19 will continue for as long as inequitable access to health products and technologies persist, including vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. 203.   Chair, on the process about which you asked very pointed questions, in order to achieve an outcome, it would be necessary to meet regularly during June and July in both plenary and openended small group settings. Chair we therefore call on you to ensure that an appropriate schedule of meetings is prepared in various formats and settings. As co-sponsors we have been active and have racked up a prodigious number of bilaterals in the last two months, and in the last three weeks we have reached out to several delegations to discuss the changes to our TRIPS Waiver Proposal. We would also need to prepare our recommendations and report to the General Council in July taking into account the latest developments in our discussions. Given the time sensitivity of this discussion, we look forward to making substantial progress towards the next General Council meeting. 204.   As co-sponsors we remain flexible on the mode of interaction and would have already indicated three elements in our 31 May statement that can be discussed with greater focus and granularity going forward. For ease of reference, let me very quickly recall these points: a. In respect of the operative paragraph 1 of the TRIPS Waiver Proposal, we have revised and added specificity to the decision text, following some concern that the original decision text was reputedly too broad. From this perspective, the revised text addresses these concerns by focusing the text on "health products and technologies", noting that the prevention, treatment or containment of COVID-19 involves a range of products and technologies which include, inter alia, diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, medical devices and personal protective equipment. We further pointed out that intellectual property issues may arise with respect to the products and technologies, their materials or components, as well as their methods and means of manufacture. As we have explained, the continued surge of COVID-19 highlights the critical importance of meaningful access to personal protective equipment (PPE), tests, therapies, and vaccines to prevent the spread and to reduce illness and death in high-risk populations and settings. These resources are acutely needed in many communities, with documented shortages and access barriers across the continuum of care. It is clear that the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID19 involves a range of health products and technologies, which we have included in the Waiver Proposal. The same logic applies to diagnostics, for example. How will we know if we are winning the battle against COVID-19 if we do not have robust testing regimes in place? Quick identification of cases, quick treatment of people and immediate isolation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is very important. As we have always said, testing is also important in the bigger public health picture on mitigation efforts, helping investigators characterize the prevalence, spread and the contagiousness of the disease. Our preambular text also points out the concern of continuous mutations and the emergence of new variants and consequently the many unknowns with respect to the COVID-19 virus. b. The second point that we made relates to the IP protections. As the text reads, the proposal also calls for a waiver of the application, implementation, and enforcement of TRIPS provisions on copyright, industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information. These categories of intellectual property are relevant to the production, supply, and access to COVID-19 health products and technologies. Very quickly once again to reiterate, paragraph 3 of the revised text makes explicit that the waiver will not apply to the protection of performers, producers of phonograms (sound recordings) and broadcasting organizations under Article 14 of the TRIPS Agreement. To underscore, during the course of our discussions, we have highlighted in various documents the relevance of addressing existing and potential intellectual property issues in respect of copyright, industrial designs, patents and the protection of undisclosed information, inter alia, in documents IP/C/W/670, IP/C/W/672 and IP/C/W/673. c. The last aspect that we introduced was the operative part of paragraph 2 of the revised text, which deals with the issue of duration. In this regard, the revised text states that the Waiver shall be in force for at least three years from the date of this decision. This clearly captures the temporary nature of the Waiver. Furthermore, to bring this point home, the General Council would have to determine a date of termination of the waiver, once the exceptional circumstances justifying the waiver actually cease to exist. 205.   In moving to closing, we think in light of the above substantive elements, the co-sponsors stand ready to deal with each of these categories in a line-by-line discussion. As already indicated by you, Chair, we would be relying on your good offices to facilitate our discussion based on a schedule on which we can agree so as to create predictability and to ensure that we have the best use of the months of June and July in order to make substantial progress in these negotiations. Furthermore, we look forward to the views that Members will express during this meeting and their contribution to our text-based discussions. We will continue to engage constructively and show the necessary flexibility towards finding a balanced outcome that has at its core the ramping-up and diversification of production across the world. This is critical in ensuring resilience against the current pandemic but more importantly, it is critical to help us to start to prepare for future pandemics.
54. The Chair recalled that the last formal meeting on 30 April had been dedicated to 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, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, the African Group, the LDC Group, the Maldives, Fiji, Namibia, Vanuatu, Indonesia and Jordan.
55. Since the formal meeting on 30 April, the co-sponsors had circulated a joint statement on 17 May 2021, which had been circulated in document IP/C/W/677, and a revised decision text for the proposed waiver on 21 May 2021, which had been circulated in document IP/C/W/669/Rev.1.
56. At the request of co-sponsors, the Council had held an open-ended informal meeting on 31 May where the co-sponsors presented the revised proposal, and Members had had a first opportunity to exchange views on the revised proposal. He said that, at the conclusion of the meeting, he had noted that a large number of delegations had called for the commencement of text-based negotiations, and that he had appealed to those Members to come forward with their suggestions regarding practical modalities and formats for such a process. To Members that had indicated that they were still examining the revised proposal, he had expressed his hope that they would be in a position to engage in a more substantive discussion at the formal Council meeting. To Members that had indicated their intention to present concrete proposals in the near future, he had urged them to submit such proposals sooner rather than later in order to enrich the Council's deliberations, and given the urgency of this issue as underlined by most Members.
57. He said that he had also reminded Members that the next regular formal meeting of the Council was scheduled for 13-14 October, and that Members should reflect on how the Council should report to the next General Council meeting scheduled for 21-22 July. In addition to comments related to the substance of the proposal before the Council, he invited delegations to express their views on how this issue should be taken forward, so that he and the Secretariat could make appropriate arrangements.
58. The representatives of South Africa; Tanzania, on behalf of the African Group; Mongolia; Malaysia; Fiji; Egypt; Pakistan; Sri Lanka; Indonesia; Bangladesh; Australia; Mexico; the Plurinational State of Bolivia; the European Union; the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela; Paraguay; Maldives; Chinese Taipei; the Republic of Korea; Nepal; Turkey; Canada; Chile; Singapore; Jordan; New Zealand; Vanuatu; Ukraine; Norway; China; Hong Kong, China; Brazil; the United Kingdom; Switzerland; Japan; the Russian Federation; El Salvador; Mozambique; Philippines; Angola; Jamaica; the United States; Peru; Argentina; Chad on behalf of the LDC Group; Viet Nam; Namibia; the European Union; India; and Iran took the floor.
59. The Chair said that while he detected continuing disagreement about certain fundamental questions regarding the issues underlying the waiver – and remaining questions on the revised provisions on scope and termination – he had also not heard any objections to engaging in a textbased process on the waiver proposal. In light of the urgency of the matter, he would consult with Members regarding the timing and format of such a process, which could have the General Council scheduled for 21-22 July as a natural target date. Such a process would always need to respect the principles of openness, inclusiveness and transparency. With this in mind, he was planning to convene an open-ended informal meeting on 17 June 2021 to inform Members on his consultations on the matter until that time, and on the possible process leading up to July.
60. He echoed the Director-General in saying that the issue of equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics was both the moral and economic issue of our time, and an issue which needed to be addressed with urgency. He said that that Members shared the common goal of providing equitable access to these products for the global population as soon as possible, even if they differ on where to place the emphasis of this endeavour. He was hopeful that in continuing urgent and focused discussion on the IP issues relevant to the pandemic, Members could soon agree on pragmatic solutions to any problems that can directly improve Members' pandemic response.
61. The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to revert to the matter at its next meeting.
IP/C/M/100, IP/C/M/100/Add.1