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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli (Norway)
Bolivia, Plurinational State of
262.   We consider this forum, the TRIPS Council, an important platform for seeking consensus on how to address the current crisis resulting from the shortage of vaccines in most countries as a consequence of vaccine hoarding carried out by a small number of countries. We appreciate and welcome the presentation of the revised document by its sponsors working with 63 co-sponsors, which we believe reflects the needs and priorities identified by our governments with a view to ramping up the global effort to tackle COVID19. The revised text is more specific and clearer in terms of its objectives, scope and duration and includes a few aspects that were of concern to a certain number of countries. 263.   We salute the good offices of the Chair of the Council to advance discussions on the text. It is clear that the revised text places the focus on prevention, treatment and containment of COVID-19. Since 20 October 2020, when India and South Africa presented the waiver proposal, there was a long discussion, followed by a series of questions and answers which, in fact, prevented us from making genuine progress on the proposal in a situation where every minute counts for us to save lives. In the last eight months, we have lost over 2 million people worldwide and today we have crossed the 3-million mark since the start of the pandemic. If we continue down this path, in a few months we will be mourning the loss of several millions more. 264.   While we acknowledge that intellectual property is not the only obstacle to increased vaccine production, but it is the most important one. We need to work on these intellectual property barriers so that we can increase production. Only then will we have the necessary number of vaccines available. The scientific evidence is unequivocal: the virus will continue to mutate, thus becoming increasingly dangerous and unpredictable and prevent us from winning the fight. The goal of achieving 70% global immunity will only be possible if we can provide for equitable, timely and affordable access to vaccines and other medicines. 265.   Bolivia has implemented the TRIPS flexibilities, which are designed to or should be to serve governments at times of extreme emergency such as this, an unprecedented situation in modern history. Yet, we are noting the huge deficiencies in the current system under the WTO. Public health is affected by the pandemic, and we see that the mechanisms put in place at the WTO are not ineffective, but are accompanied by genuine political disinterest. 266.   In an interdependent world, only a collective, effective and timely response would allow us to halt this pandemic, a pandemic which is wreaking havoc at a social and economic level. We believe that the current text submitted reflects the COVID-19 challenges facing the international community, the unprecedented and multifaceted aspects of the pandemic, which has altered life as we know it as well as trade, the economy and tourism and the huge gap between developed and developing countries. The challenge is to be able to work together to develop generic versions of the vaccines so that they can reach all people and all nations of the world. We cannot continue to postpone and prolong the discussion. This is why we ask that consultations start in small meetings using all mechanisms available so that we can reach the General Council with a consensus text and that once and for all we can respond to the current concerns. We wish for constructive discussions and call for consensus before the Ministerial Conference in November. Measures are needed urgently and without delay because this is what humanity requires. 267.   The waiver proposal before us today opens up the possibility for us to show the world's citizens that we are capable of taking the measures necessary that would enable equitable access to vaccines. We can show the usefulness and validity of multilateralism.
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