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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli (Norway)
316.   New Zealand supports the waiver of IP protections on vaccines as an important part of our collective effort to address the human catastrophe of the pandemic. As set out in the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting Joint Statement, New Zealand is ready to act proactively in support of text-based discussions. 317.   We have listened and agree that the circumstances relating to COVID-19 vaccines are exceptional and justify a waiver of certain TRIPS rules. In making that assessment we have considered all sides of this issue, including the purpose and value of TRIPS rules in incentivising innovation and providing certainty to parties throughout the supply chain for health products and technologies. However, we have also balanced those considerations against the human catastrophe of the pandemic and the extraordinary circumstances relating to vaccines. They are the single most important tool we have to respond to the pandemic, we need vaccines available to everyone around the world as quickly as possible, and a vaccinated world is the best way to address the need for other COVID-19 treatments. Therefore, if intellectual property protections are preventing or slowing the manufacture and distribution of vaccines – we need to be able to waive those protections, at least until we have sufficient global manufacturing capacity to meet global demand. 318.   However, it is also our strong view that addressing TRIPS rules can only be a part of the WTO's response to the pandemic. Equally, we must also address trade and other barriers that are limiting the free movement of vaccines as well as the raw materials and equipment needed for the manufacture of those vaccines. New Zealand supports the Ottawa Group trade and health initiative and the Director-General's "third way" approach, both of which demonstrate how trade policy can help improve access – for example through trade facilitation measures, tariff liberalisation and disciplines on export restrictions. We must also continue to strongly support COVAX and other mechanisms supporting equitable global access. 319.   There are clearly differing views on the effect of waiving IP rights, but we should all cease positioning and begin a text-based discussion to identify where consensus can be found. The WTO must do, and must be seen to do, all it can to respond to the pandemic. Focusing these discussions on vaccines provides a justifiable and meaningful path forward.
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