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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli (Norway)
401.   I will begin by expressing thanks to the new co-sponsors and Members who have come forward to support our proposal. We thank Members for their pragmatism which is important to take these negotiations to their logical and timely conclusion. 402.   The past year and a half have been unprecedented in the history of this organisation. As the challenges posed by the pandemic unfold, we work towards collaborative efforts to combat COVID19. In this regard, Members have submitted proposals at the WTO seeking to combat the crisis and enhance preparedness for future pandemics, however, it is our firm belief that the TRIPS Waiver Proposal remains at the core of our response and preparedness. We have introduced the revised text after many rounds of informal and formal meetings of this Council and small group meetings and bilateral discussions. The revised text addresses the concerns raised by Members in these meetings. Let me quickly touch upon the changes that we have brought out in the revised text. Out of these five changes, three changes have been made to the preamble and the other two concerning the scope and duration. 403.   The first change draws our attention to the emerging variants and mutations that reinforces the belief that the solution must be global and timely or else the virus and its mutations and variants would outpace and beat the solutions designed. 404.   The second change is made to integrate elements from TRIPS Council Chairs' report to the General Council reflecting solidarity shown by the membership in treating this as a global problem that needs a global solution. 405.   The third change to the preamble reflects the balance between commercial interests of IP rights holders and public health at large also showing that for the co-sponsors it is not an ideological debate, we are not against incentives for R&D and innovation while at the same time we acknowledge the importance of public health during a pandemic. 406.   The scope and duration bring in specificity to the proposal, as the scope focuses on the prevention, containment, and treatment of COVID-19 and includes the health products and technologies needed to deal with the pandemic, the specific duration considers uncertainties surrounding the pandemic while also brings out the temporary nature of the waiver. The proponents have no intention of continuing the waiver for indefinite period and no intention of denying benefits of IP rights to right holders beyond the waiver period. 407.   It is encouraging to note that in the past eight months the proposal has been actively discussed in various formats at the TRIPS Council meetings both formal and informal, in small group meetings as well as in bilateral engagements. A fair conclusion can be drawn that all Members have concurred that the solution needs to be comprehensive and multipronged, and that various ways can be pursued simultaneously and without prejudice to each other. 408.   We gather from the informal meeting held on 31 May and the discussions held yesterday and today that Members have expressed their willingness to engage in discussions on the text and we thank the Members for this flexibility. Also, in the informal meeting Chair you had asked delegations to come prepared to deliberate upon the modalities and format with regards to the text-based negotiations. Let me briefly present our five suggestions with respect to the way forward. 409.   First, we would like negotiations to begin after this formal meeting i.e., by mid-June. Second, looking at the severity of the second and third wave hitting different parts of the world, we cannot lose time, and therefore we look at concluding these negotiations by the end of July before we go for the summer break. Third, we would like to enter line-by-line negotiations on the text, and for this we are open and flexible to engage in all possible formats whether in a plenary or small group meetings. Fourth, we request all necessary cooperation regarding administrative and logistical arrangements from TRIPS Council Secretariat to go forward in this regard. Finally, we urge that as we are working on a tight schedule, we can engage daily in the similar way as we are engaging to conclude the fisheries negotiations. 410.   In conclusion I would say that we have reached a critical juncture in this process and any dilly dallying would only cause more harm especially when we are in a race against time. If there are any Members who are still in two minds, and have concerns on the text, we urge them to come to the table, join the text-based negotiations and we can continue discussions and work on thrashing out these issues of interpretation therein.
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