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

520.   My delegation aligns with the statement delivered by Chad on behalf of the LDCs. Bangladesh welcomes the draft decision contained in document JOB/IP/46 that proposes further extension of the TRIPS exemption under Article 66.1 for the LDCs for the next 13 years. 521.   The LDC Group submitted a duly motivated request (document IP/C/W/668) the previous year requesting an extension of the transition for the LDCs under TRIPS Article 66.1 proposing the extension be as long as a country remains an LDC, plus a few more years after graduation from the LDC category. According the TRIPS Agreement, there is no legal barrier to making such a request. 522.   During the last eight months, we remained engaged with all stakeholders to get their support for our proposal. As a result, we did get support from a large number of WTO Members. In addition, lawmakers, civil society organizations (CSOs), intellectuals and academia all around the globe supported the LDC Group's request as fully justified. The LDC Group is grateful to all delegations. Although, some Members had different views on our two issues in the submission: full time extension and additional years for the LDCs after graduation. Those Members also preferred to follow the 2013 decision text. 523.   The delegation of Bangladesh appreciates you, Chair, for facilitating informal meetings with Members. My delegation also recognizes the flexibilities shown by the LDCs and other Members in the negotiation to help the TRIPS Council make a decision before the current expiry date. We are happy to finally have a consensus-based decision. The LDC Group is committed to working with its partners. 524.   The shock created by the pandemic to the LDCs is severe and the impacts are yet to be measured fully. Almost all recent reports, analytical studies and academic papers warn that the crisis will reverse years of painstaking progress by the LDCs in social fields such as poverty reduction, nutrition and education. Overall, the future is an uncertain journey for the LDCs, including those on the path to graduation. Under these circumstances, the LDCs will be struggling to preserve any progress made in social and economic sectors. Therefore, making progress on the TRIPS provisions by the LDCs will be a far cry. The LDCs request the developed country Members' fullest support, including reinvigorated efforts to ensure technology transfer to the LDCs under Article 66.2 to make this extension impactful. 525.   Graduation from LDC status has taken on new momentum. Currently 16 LDCs have now met graduation criteria. In addition, ten other countries have already met at least one criterion for graduation and many of them are expected to be eligible in the next United Nations Committee for Development Policy review in 2024. On the other hand, todate five countries graduated from the LDC category after the establishment of the WTO since 1995. It is evident that these countries could not sufficiently address their TRIPS applicationrelated needs and challenges immediately before or after their graduation. They could not create any viable technological base. It means that the remaining LDC Members must need the continuation of this policy space under Article 66.1 for an appropriate period if we want their meaningful integration into the international trading system, particularly in the context of TRIPS. 526.   My delegation earlier emphasised that any issue related to TRIPS must be first discussed in the TRIPS Council and the TRIPS Council would either take a decision or make a recommendation to the General Council. The specific aspect of the LDC Group's duly motivated request on the transition period regarding the application of TRIPS provisions for the LDCs after graduation merits discussion in the TRIPS Council. However, some Members still prefer that this issue should be sent to the General Council. My delegation requests the TRIPS Council to make a strong recommendation to the General Council to positively and favourably consider granting the LDCs a transition period for a reasonable duration, exempting from implementing TRIPS provisions as a country graduates from its LDC status, to ensure a smooth transition. In conclusion, my delegation thanks all Members for their empathy and support for the LDCs in making this decision that we are adopting in the present discussion.
62. The Chair recalled that the general transition period for least developed country Members had been extended twice, most recently by the TRIPS Council decision IP/C/64 of 11 June 2013, and was currently set to expire on 1 July 2021 – in less than one months' time. With respect to extensions of this period, he noted that the second sentence of Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement provided that "The Council for TRIPS shall, upon duly motivated request by a least developed country Member, accord extensions of this period."
63. He also recalled that, under a parallel decision concerning specifically pharmaceutical products, the Council had extended the transition period for LDC Members until 1 January 2033 or until such a date on which they cease to be a LDC Member, whichever date is earlier. During this period, LDC Members concerned were not obliged to implement or apply the sections of the TRIPS Agreement regarding patents and the protection of undisclosed information, nor to enforce rights provided under these sections, insofar as pharmaceutical products were concerned.
64. He reminded the council that the LDC Group had circulated its request for an extension in document on 1 October 2020. After having held consultations, at the formal meeting of the Council in March, his predecessor had shared her impression that (1) delegations were in principle favourable to extending the transition period for LDCs, that (2) some delegations had expressed a preference for extending the period for a limited number of years, and that (3) others had raised additional questions on how the request for a transition period for graduated LDCs related to Article 66.1. At that meeting, the Council had requested the incoming Chair to hold consultations on this matter.
65. He said that, since March, he had been in touch with the LDC Group coordinators and a number of delegations in various formats. At the request of the LDC Group he had held a series of intensive consultations with the LDC Group coordinators and five developed country delegations which the LDC Group had identified.
66. Based on the interventions by delegations in these consultations, it was his reading that there was broad willingness to grant an extension of the transition period for LDCs on the basis of the 2013 decision. However, regarding the request for additional years of transition after graduation of LDCs there were more questions – and it was the view of a number of delegations that such a request was not covered by the Council's mandate in Article 66.1.
67. Given that the LDC transition period expires on 1 July of this year, and – according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs website – the next LDC graduations of WTO LDC Members were not expected before 2024, it had seemed to him that the most immediate – indeed, pressing – issue was the extension of the transition period for those Members that are currently LDCs under Article 66.1. This affected their status already next month, whereas the status of graduating LDCs would not be a practical issue for at least three years.
68. In light of this scenario, and as a pragmatic approach to address the most pressing issue first, he had suggested during the consultations that these two issues could be discussed separately. He had proposed that delegations could first work towards a decision on extending the LDC transition period under Art. 66.1 based on similar terms as in 2013, so that such a decision could be adopted at present meeting of the Council.
69. As regards the question whether members should be granted additional years of a transition period also after graduation, he had suggested that this could become the subject of a focused discussion – in the TRIPS Council or elsewhere – where the systemic issues Members had raised in this regard could be addressed more broadly, and with a somewhat longer time horizon.
70. He said that his suggestion had, however, not been taken up by delegations, and the LDC Group had requested an informal open-ended meeting of the Council on this subject which was then organized on 4 June 2021.
71. At that meeting, Members had had an opportunity to exchange views and listen to each other’s concerns. His assessment was that the meeting had confirmed that agreement on extending the transition period for LDCs was within reach, even if the question of duration remained to be solved, while disagreements remained over the proposal to extend the transition period beyond graduation.
72. In short, he said, Members had not been able to make as much progress as he had hoped when he had briefed Members on the consultations on 30 April 2021. His objective had been to have a basis for a decision to be adopted at this Council meeting. Given that this had not been possible and given that the current transition period will expire in three weeks from now, he encouraged delegations to share their thoughts and suggestions on how the Council could possibly address this issue.
73. The representatives of Chad on behalf of the LDC Group; Bangladesh; Tanzania on behalf of the African Group; Nepal; Senegal; Angola; Chile; Uganda; Vanuatu; Pakistan; Malawi; Mongolia; India; Myanmar; Argentina; Brazil; Mozambique; China; South Africa; Australia; Norway; the United States; Canada; Switzerland; Japan; the European Union; the United Kingdom; Turkey; Togo; and Zambia took the floor.
74. The Chair suggested to keep this agenda item open with a view to reconvening the meeting as appropriate when delegations were ready to take a decision on this item.
75. The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to keep the agenda item open.
76. At the Council for TRIPS reconvened formal meeting of 29 June 2021, the Chair proposed that the Council adopt the "Draft Decision on the extension of the transition period under Article 66.1 for least developed country Members", that had been circulated in document JOB/IP/46 on 25 June 2021. He recalled that this decision had been discussed in small group consultations in the previous week, and had been briefly introduced at an informal meeting of the Council the same afternoon, where Members had also been briefed on the consultations that had led to this agreement. In light of those discussions, he suggested that the Council adopt the decision as contained in document JOB/IP/46.
77. The Council so agreed.
78. The Chair thanked all delegations for their good faith efforts to find a solution to this matter in time before the current transition period expired the following day. He also shared his understanding that the question whether newly graduated LDC members should be accorded additional flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement after their graduation had not disappeared. It was his understanding that the LDC Group and certain delegations agreed in their contacts that this post-graduation element of the request would best be pursued under the LDC proposal already on the agenda of the General Council. He encouraged all delegations to engage in that discussion constructively and in good faith.
79. The representatives of Chad on behalf of the LDC Group; Bangladesh; the United Kingdom; Nepal; Tanzania on behalf of the African Group; Afghanistan; Malawi; the United States, Japan; Switzerland; Togo; Canada; China; Mauritius; the European Union; Korea; India; Myanmar; Mozambique; South Africa; Australia; the Central African Republic; Egypt; and Pakistan took the floor.
80. The Council took note of the statements made.