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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli (Norway)
Tanzania on behalf of African Group

206.   On behalf of the African Group, I want to thank the proponents and co-sponsors of the proposal which the African Group is also a co-sponsor. Our position remains the same as the one we shared during the consultative meeting on 31 May 2021 where we insisted the following main points: a. COVID-19 has continued to be the biggest challenge of our time and continues to impair our social economic progress built over the decades. b. Africa, like other continents, is grappling to contain the pandemic since its outbreak in 2020. The prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19 remains a top priority of our governments until now. c. The current WHO statics on vaccination shows that Africa, developing countries and LDCs are not very satisfactory and therefore it should be our concern. This low pace of vaccination allows the virus to continue mutating and will lead to a point where it will be too complex to contain it in future. We also say that no one country or one continent will win this battle alone. d. To achieve the broad objective of ending COVID-19 needs solidarity, a collective approach, and collaborative efforts, particularly in scaling up the production and distribution of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic kits. e. We also mention that numerous stakeholders and key groups of people across the globe, are acknowledging that the current centralised production and distribution of vaccines, contributes to the delay in reaching the 60% target of vaccination in the population as a head immunity target. f. We believe that the proposed waiver will contribute to the scaling up of production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutics and diagnostic kits across the globe. g. Therefore, the Group would like to welcome and thank Members' flexibility and support shown so far. As we are embarking on a text-based negotiation, we would like to insist that the envisioned waiver, to be meaningful, should not be a replica of the existing flexibilities enshrined in the TRIPS Agreement. That said, it will be important for Members to seriously consider the negotiation text as tabled by the proponents. h. We would like also to insist on the importance of reaching an outcome as soon as possible, most preferably to be before the summer break. It has already taken us too long to start negotiation on this subject. We have heard too much in the question and answer discussions, which were worthwhile to consider because they will reduce the time to negotiate the line by line text. For the waiver to be meaningful in saving the lives of the people, we need to move swiftly, as the virus is ramping up and many lives are being lost. That said, the African Group would like to request the Chair to hold numerous consultative meetings in various formats such as small group, informal and formal configurations. 207.   Basically what the African Group is looking for is that during the General Council, the TRIPS Council will be in a position to present the adopted waiver as its report. Chair, I want to also insist to Members that they remain as flexible as possible so that we can finalize this work as soon as possible.

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