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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli (Norway)
European Union
394.   I would like to give some first responses to questions from India. I think we have discussed a lot of these issues already in the context of small groups and informal meetings and of course we are ready to discuss again and in more detail. First of all, about the multilateral action and multifaceted action, that was the question of India. What is part of this proposal, so here I would like to reiterate the engagement of the EU in both the Trade and Health Initiative that was presented by the Ottawa Group that deals with a number of trade-related policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis, and also a specific communication on urgent trade policy responses to COVID-19 crisis, document WT/GC/231, that we have submitted to the WTO General Council on 4 June 2021. The approach proposed in these documents is basically to explain that we need a number of trade-related measures that deal with identifying bottlenecks. It is to tackle export restrictions, to look at supply chains, to look at trade facilitation measures, that we need to have also a proper cooperation with industry and see how we can support collaborations between industry, and this is where the DirectorGeneral of the WTO, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has organised a number of events as to how to strengthen these collaborations and how to strengthen this matchmaking. 395.   The third component of this approach is the intellectual property component where the logic of our proposal is, that IP should be an enabler when it comes to increasing capacity and using the current adequate capacity. It is all of these components together that work towards accelerating the production of vaccines and medicines. None of these elements alone can do it and certainly not the element on intellectual property, whether it is compulsory licensing or the waiver, cannot achieve it. What we need, as we have presented in our intervention, we need discussions, we need investments, we need to create conditions, we need to see which facilities can be used, we need to see what additions to these facilities have to be made. Switzerland gave a very good example of what had to be done to ensure there is skilled personnel, there is a question of access to raw materials, so all of this has to come together in order to accelerate production of vaccines and medicines, and as South Africa was saying today, I think that there are clearly things that can be done in the short term and things that can be done in the medium- and long term. And clearly, as the delegate from South Africa was referring to, the fact of the dependence of certain regions like Africa on imports of pharmaceuticals - I think the delegate referred to 99% of imports - is not a situation that can be accepted going forward. And this is also why the European Union is engaging on supporting what I think was included very clearly in our intervention today, on the creation of manufacturing hubs in Africa and also strengthening the resilience of health systems. So, to answer the question, all of this comes together to produce a set, because it is not by one click or one decision or one change, especially in the area which has nothing to do with the bottlenecks which are identified, that we can bring any change. 396.   All of this is also done in such a way as to maintain incentives and not break the current collaboration – not taking away incentives for transfer of technology and know-how, I think that is a crucial part of the EU proposal. Our proposal is proposed in such a way to ensure when IP is an obstacle, so when the licence is an obstacle, then the compulsory licences system can be used and can respond to this obstacle. At the same time, we are not proposing an approach that undermines the current collaborations, that result in a chilling effect on collaboration going forward, and basically backfires and puts into question all our efforts and objectives that we have. 397.   When it comes to questions about particular clarifications, I think I have referred to this already, when replying to the honourable delegate from South Africa, we are not reiterating what is in the TRIPS Agreement or the Doha Declaration, we are giving additional precision, an additional comfort regarding these three issues in the circumstances of the pandemic. It does not have a limiting effect of course, as we have explained many times. The intention is not to provide clarification in a way that limits Members in the use of these flexibilities, on the contrary, it is to provide additional comfort, to provide legal certainty to make the system as effective as possible. We heard now from India and we hear from a number of delegations that it is does not go far enough, that it is inadequate, that there can be other issues. India mentioned notification procedures. There were also references to packaging and labelling requirements. Well, I would say, let's discuss it. Please let us know what else is missing, because moving away, and leaving the discussion at the level of 'it is inadequate and cannot work because it does not go far enough' is not helping to go forward. Let's discuss requirement by requirement, what else is needed, we are very open to do that. 398.   The European Union has been saying this from the beginning, we have come up with our proposal on what we think is most relevant but we are absolutely open to discussing, and this already came in a very useful manner last week from the delegation of Turkey, for which we are very grateful. As I explained in our intervention today, we are analysing very closely this proposal. So let's discuss it, let's not just say it is inadequate, let's not just say it doesn't go far enough. Please put issues forward so that we can look into this. All of this is open to discussion, we discussed legal enforceability, for the time being I can say it is the same as the Doha Declaration. We see how the Doha Declaration has been agreed and what kind of impact it has had and continues to have, and we think that our declaration as proposed can have a very similar impact and can be extremely useful for the times of a pandemic. I will stop here, but the most important, from my point of view, is the invitation to share. We are not limiting our approach to the proposal to what we are putting on paper. We are open to discussing all requirements and looking at all issues and we think that we need to move forward in the discussion, we need to advance, we cannot as has been said many times by the proponents of the waiver, we cannot go in circles. Let's try to find some areas of convergence, let's try to start with something smaller, something relevant, something on which we can build convergence and communication between us – and obviously patents is the area which is most relevant here. So let's start with this, rather than discuss and not find any solutions, let's start with something that can bring solutions in the short term and make a real difference. That is what we would like to invite all Members to do.
19. The Chair said this item had been put on the agenda at the request of the European Union. Two communications had also been received from the European Union and had been circulated as documents IP/C/W/680 and IP/C/W/681. He invited the European Union to introduce the topic and the submissions.
20. The delegations of the European Union, Chad, on behalf of the LDC Group, South Africa, Switzerland, Paraguay, Singapore and India, took the floor.
21. The Council took note of the statements made.
IP/C/M/101, IP/C/M/101/Add.1