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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli (Norway)
United Kingdom
233.   With your permission, the United Kingdom would now address agenda items 13 and 14 together. The United Kingdom has engaged constructively and consistently in debate on whether waiving IP rights is an effective route to scaling up production of, and improving equitable access to, COVID19 goods. An unprecedented number of TRIPS Councils and small group sessions have been held to advance this discussion, where there has been a useful exchange of viewpoints from various delegations. We welcome all contributions to the process, including the European Union's communication on compulsory licensing, and the positive impact it has had in driving constructive engagement. We are encouraged by recent discussions on areas of convergence in small group sessions and welcome further conversations that move the Council towards evidence-based pragmatic solutions. 234.   Chair, you asked at the previous Council for practical next steps on this file. The UK delegation considers pragmatic, solution-oriented and evidence-driven conversation as the next step, which must guide our discussions in the run up to MC12. We have made clear throughout this debate that the UK is committed to any effective action in this regard. The role of the legal framework provided by the TRIPS Agreement during this pandemic cannot be understated; indeed, it has led towards rapid innovation, meaningful and collaborative partnerships which have contributed to the production and dissemination of vaccines and other health products and technologies, to help contain, treat, and prevent COVID-19. 235.   An undoubtable enabling factor for vaccine production has been voluntary licensing and technology transfer partnerships. This has had a significant impact on the rapid scaling up of vaccine production capacity across the globe. We have come a long way since the beginning of 2021. Latest data state that monthly COVID-19 vaccine production is estimated at 1.5 billion doses and overall production is looking to exceed 12 billion doses by the end of 2021. This is commendable and unprecedented. As the World Health Organization Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the Member States Information Session on COVID-19 on 7 October 2021, "…with global vaccine production now at nearly 1.5 billion doses per month, there is sufficient supply to achieve our targets, provided that there is equitable distribution of those doses". While the WTO can and should play a vital role to support equitable distribution, bottlenecks to equitable distribution lie outside of the IP system. 236.   Moreover, partnerships like AstraZeneca with the Serum Institute of India, Pfizer-BioNTech and BIOVAC in South Africa, and the establishment of mRNA regional hubs, positively signal what is possible thanks to the existing IP framework. Alongside other factors such as early investment into manufacturing, support for procurement and distribution mechanisms such as COVAX, collaborative public-private partnerships driven by cooperation and trust can make realworld change. These partnerships also place the world in good stead to respond to any future infectious disease pandemics as we continue to build and develop the necessary infrastructure to effectively respond to the global health crisis before us. 237.   Critical lessons must continue to be learned from our response to the COVID-19 pandemic so that the global community can take action to ensure an effective and rapid response to future pandemics. In this regard, Members should work collaboratively and endeavour to identify and remove obstacles to additional non-exclusive voluntary licensing and technology transfer partnerships being formed. 238.   Furthermore, WTO Members must look at what makes an effective response, considering the wider trade-related factors such as export restrictions, trade facilitation barriers, tariff barriers, and regulatory streamlining, as well as non-trade-related measures such as the creation of new and expansion of existing manufacturing capacities and training of skilled personnel to ensure transfer of technology. 239.   Understanding how the WTO can act in the most productive manner requires the feedback and collaboration of all WTO Members. The UK is currently considering where, as an Organization, we can drive forward pragmatic solutions and effective change. We encourage other Members to also similarly consider this and, where possible, share their thoughts. 240.   As we approach MC12 we remain committed to working constructively with all delegations under the principles of pragmatism, evidence-based and solution-driven thinking. We stress that IP rights have and will continue to play a fundamental role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and any future crises. At this critical juncture of promising vaccine production and growing creation of infrastructure to respond to the pandemic, it is critical that Members maintain the progress we are making to contain, treat, and prevent COVID-19.
121. The Chair recalled that on 4 June 2021, the Council had received a communication from the European Union on "Urgent Trade Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Crisis: Intellectual Property".(document ), which had been followed on 18 June 2021 by a "Draft General Council Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in the Circumstances of a Pandemic".(document ).
122. The European Union had introduced its proposed declaration during an informal meeting held on 24 June 2021. The proposal had also been discussed during informal meetings held on 30 June and 6 and 14 July, and at a formal meeting on 20 July. It had since been discussed at every meeting dedicated to discussing the revised TRIPS waiver proposal under the previous agenda item. As part of the TRIPS Council's status reports to the General Council on the revised waiver request on 27 July and on 4 October, Members had reported that the TRIPS Council would also continue its consideration of the EU's proposal.
123. The representatives of the United Kingdom; Pakistan; Cuba; Republic of Korea; Singapore; Turkey; China; Switzerland; Norway; Brazil; Mozambique; India; and the European Union took the floor.
124. The Chair thanked the delegations for their interventions. Noting that the consideration of the present item was closely linked to the previous one, he suggested to also suspend the conclusion of this agenda item, so that it could be taken up together with the waiver discussion, when the Council resumed these items.
125. The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to keep the agenda item open.
126. At the reconvened meeting of 18 November, the report to the General Council was adopted and the Chair said that, it was therefore understood that the agenda items 13 and 14 on the Council's agenda continued to remain open in order to permit more time for bilateral engagement, with a view to resuming – at short notice if necessary – the meeting, when there were indications that Members might be ready to reach an agreement. [see paragraphs 93-99]
127. At the reconvened meeting of 29 November, the Chair proposed to take agenda items 13 and 14 together, as delegations had been making a single statement. [see paragraphs 100-107]
128. At the reconvened meeting of 16 December, the Chair proposed to take agenda items 13 and 14 together, as delegations had been making a single statement. [see paragraphs 108-119]
IP/C/M/103, IP/C/M/103/Add.1