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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli (Norway)
14 DRAFT GENERAL COUNCIL DECLARATION ON THE TRIPS AGREEMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF A PANDEMIC
260.   Pakistan wishes to recall all its previous statements on this issue in previous formal and informal meetings of the Council. We also wish to align ourselves and echo the statements that have been or will be made by other co-sponsors on this agenda item. The Waiver Proposal has been under discussion for over a year now. During this time, vaccine inequity has become entrenched. Vaccine production remains concentrated in a few countries and creates shortages for those who actually need it. As a result, 5 million deaths have been officially reported. At the same time, 5 billion vaccine doses administered, and yet only 11.5% of the people in low middleincome and low-income countries combined have been fully vaccinated. 261.   In its latest projections, the COVAX facility has revised its estimates, falling short of their targets for 2021 by 600 million doses. Clearly, vaccine production shortages are real and staring us in the face. The Waiver Proposal seeks a temporary waiver from some TRIPS obligations and is an essential step that our Organization can take to ramp up production of vaccines, diagnostics and other products in order to save human lives. 262.   The proposal had seemingly reached a text-based negotiation stage. However, the process has not seen any meaningful engagement on the text by a few delegations. Their repeated, stonewalling questions, which have already been answered orally in formal, informal and small group meetings and in various written submissions by the co-sponsors, have yielded a circular discussion. 263.   The co-sponsors have demonstrated in various submissions what civil society, think tanks, academics and experts around us have been saying for a long time. Voluntary licences, as a solution, remain inadequate, opaque and largely dependent on private companies without any push to address critical emergencies in the pandemic. Compulsory licensing flexibilities are not only cumbersome and virtually impossible to implement, but also not sufficient given the magnitude of the emergency at hand. Interestingly, according to the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the waiver is effectively a compulsory licence, but without the transaction costs associated with its implementation. 264.   Pakistan is addressing both agenda items 13 and 14 together. As my colleague from South Africa has just mentioned, all tools must remain available to developing countries and the European Union proposal, the subject of agenda item 14, must not form an alternative to the Waiver Proposal. Even the European Union proposal in principle recognizes that intellectual property is a challenge. However, mere clarifications of TRIPS flexibilities will not overcome those challenges. In this situation, the temporary TRIPS waiver remains the only meaningful, workable solution within the rules of the WTO Agreement, for the scaling up of production of vaccines and other equipment in the pandemic. 265.   Allow me to quote the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, from the same statement my worthy colleague from the United Kingdom has referenced: "Science has played its part by delivering powerful, life-saving tools faster than for any outbreak in history. But the concentration of those tools in the hands of a few countries and companies has led to a global catastrophe, with the rich protected while the poor remain exposed to a deadly virus." 266.   In the same statement, Dr Ghebreyesus mentions the solution to achieve targets, and I quote again: "vaccine producing countries must…enable diversified vaccine production, both geographically and technologically, including through non-exclusive, and transparent licensing and sharing of knowhow to allow transfer of technology and scale-up of manufacturing." And "vaccine manufacturers must…commit to share know-how more rapidly, facilitate technology transfer and provide transparent non-exclusive voluntary licences, to ensure that future vaccine supply is reliable, affordable, available, and deployed to every country in volumes and timing that achieves equitable access." 267.   The inability to do any of those, or to meet any of those conditions, will continue to result in the situation we are faced with. Therefore, the TRIPS waiver must be passed if the WTO wishes to provide a meaningful and credible response to the pandemic. No response from the WTO will be a disaster. We understand that a separate process is underway on this subject and we are of the view that the TRIPS waiver must be passed and made part of any response of the WTO. 268.   This remains the moment of truth for the WTO. As the UNAIDS Executive Director has expressed, "we cannot repeat the painful lessons from the early years of the AIDS response, when people in wealthier countries got back to health, while millions of people in developing countries were left behind. If we continue with business as usual we will fail in delivering fair access to COVID19 treatments for all those in need. Yet fair access is the human right of everyone, no matter the colour of their skin, the money in their pocket or the country they live in." 269.   All eyes are on us to ensure this human right for everyone and save lives.
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