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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli (Norway)
United Kingdom
338.   First of all, I would like to thank the proponents for submitting their revised proposal to this Council. We recognize the passion and the interest around these issues and we note the changes made and have considered whether these changes address the concerns raised by the UK and other Members in previous TRIPS Council sessions on this subject. I would like to underline that we will continue to engage constructively on this issue. We do not think, however, that the amended proposal does really address the questions that we have posed and indeed in some respects it raises additional concerns on how a waiver as envisaged in the proposal would actually genuinely help us scale up and speed up the production and distribution of COVID-19 supplies for the prevention, treatment, and containment of COVID-19. 339.   Overall, we fear that the revised text does not bring our positions closer together. In particular, the text continues to suggest that the international IP system is a barrier when we still do not think that we have seen evidence of that being the case. We all recognize the rapid action that is required by all of us, both governments, industry and international organizations, to accomplish our shared aim of tackling COVID-19; therefore, we consider it important to concentrate those efforts on pragmatic solutions and steps that we collectively believe will resolve these issues surrounding vaccine equity in a rapid and effective manner. 340.   Fundamentally, we remain to be convinced how an IP waiver, if agreed, would actually increase the supply of COVID-19 goods. To date, we have still not seen evidence demonstrating intellectual property as a limiting factor in either the production or the supply of COVID-19 goods. We note, for example, some WTO Members already have the policy flexibility to operate without being subject to the obligations under the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. At the same time, some of these Members have reported having manufacturing capacity. We are at a loss to understand why that immediate production has not happened in these countries on that basis. 341.   Voluntary licensing and technology transfer partnerships are making real, positive real-world impact on vaccine delivery, as exemplified by the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine with its numerous partnerships around the world. These partnerships have enabled the delivery of more than half a billion doses to 168 countries around the world, and they account for around 96% of total COVAX supply. We know that we need to do more. We continue to encourage and work to facilitate more partnerships like the Oxford AstraZeneca one and once again call on Members who do have the right manufacturing capacity and experience to come forward to work with the pharmaceutical sector to scale up supply. Whilst we cannot overstate the role industry has played, we recognize further work is required. British Ministers are continuing to engage with the pharma sector and are pushing them to deliver concrete proposals to further scale up supply of COVID-19 goods. 342.   This pandemic is not over and nor is it sadly likely to be the last one, so we do have to consider the long-term consequences of potential short-term action on intellectual property. A key priority for the UK is ensuring the multilateral IP system remains fit-for-purpose to respond both to the current crisis and future crises by continuing to encourage innovation that is at the heart of our response to this pandemic. Without that, new vaccines for new pandemics will simply not be developed. That is the challenge. The UK believes TRIPS flexibilities are legitimate tools to access COVID-19 goods and should be used already where needed. We welcome news of Members who have begun exploring this avenue, including in yesterday's debate. I would like to thank the European Union for its communication. We welcome the introduction of additional proposals for consideration by this Council and we had welcomed the opportunity to come back for a fuller consideration of the EU proposal, and indeed others that may be brought to the table of this Council, in due course. 343.   The recent communiques from the G20 and G7 affirm the shared global commitment to finding effective solutions within the multilateral rules-based system. Ensuring targeted and sensible principles focused on addressing trade and health concerns has been a key priority for us as Chair of the G7 this year. The G7 trade ministers in their communique of 28 May underlined their commitment to continue to support work here at the WTO in identifying solutions to expand global vaccine production and distribution. They want to work with industry, the COVAX Manufacturing Taskforce and the ACT-A Manufacturing Working Group to scale up capacity and engage on forward supply planning. In addition, we will support open, diversified, secure, and resilient supply chains in the manufacture of COVID-19 critical goods, vaccines and their components, and we welcome the termination of many trade restrictive measures. Looking towards the future, we will be working in partnership with our G7 members to formulate pragmatic, effective, and holistic solutions to support trade in health ahead of and at MC12. We believe these actions can best guide measures to increase the production, supply and access to COVID-19 technologies. We look forward to reporting back to Members on the conclusions of this weekend's G7 Summit in Cornwall where these issues will be foremost in leaders' minds. We are glad to say that the Directors-General of the WTO and also the WHO will be participating in these discussions. 344.   The UK has been working with the WHO on developing C-TAP, including with other key partners such as the United Nations Development Programme, the Medicines Patent Pool and Cambridge Enterprise, to share our approach to medical licenses for sharing of IP. A useful next step for C-TAP would be the WHO to work even more closely with governments to demonstrate how to incentivise industry players to participate in the scheme. We encourage further engagement by Members in the C-TAP space, as well as drawing on expertise from WIPO and WHO via the trilateral cooperation framework with the WTO. 345.   We need to focus on pragmatic practical solutions that will actively address the blockers to vaccine equity – solutions that will speed up the elimination of tariffs on ingredients and production tools, production bottlenecks and supply chain issues such as specialised raw material shortages - solutions that ensure that available doses are effectively distributed and administered, whilst continuing to scale up existing and new vaccine production - solutions which deliver real world change, quickly, effectively, equitably.
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