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
434.   Pakistan wishes to recall all its previous statements on this issue in previous formal and informal meetings of the Council. We also align ourselves with and echo the statements made by South Africa and other co-sponsors on this issue. 435.   It is unfortunate that our continued denial of the waiver has resulted in a situation which we had always feared. The lack of access to vaccines in developing countries and delayed immunity has resulted in the development of new variants, which would be more virulent and more infectious. It is unfortunate that despite ample evidence, lengthy discussions, and extensive clarifications, the waiver has continued to be blocked without engagement on the text by a mere handful of delegations. This denial, both of the waiver and its need, has meant that the proverbial chickens have now come home to roost. The new Omicron variant, within a few days of its detection has put an end, in the foreseeable future, to any ambition this Organization had of hosting a Ministerial Conference. Restrictions on travel and social mobility continue to abound, particularly in Europe. 436.   During the time we have spent debating the proposal, vaccine inequity has become more entrenched. Only to provide an example of the situation, the details of which have been highlighted by other co-sponsors and the worthy colleague from South Africa earlier, according to Dr Drobac, an Oxford University academic specializing in infectious diseases, there are still over 3 billion people around the world who have not had access to a vaccine. In Africa only 5% of the population is fully vaccinated. 437.   Even with its revised estimates, COVAX is still falling short of its targets for 2021. Clearly, vaccine production shortages are real and staring us in the face. This and the Ministerial Conference postponement are extremely unfortunate. It is also a sombre reminder to the membership that the most important and pressing negotiation can no longer be ignored merely by referring to it as the elephant in the room. This is now, if not from the beginning, the most important, if not the only negotiation, that the Organization must take forward with urgency and priority to find a solution. To reiterate the questions posed by co-sponsor colleagues, the membership demands an answer to how long the world has to wait for a few Members to engage meaningfully on the text of the waiver, which they had promised months ago. On our part, the co-sponsors wish to continue to engage in earnest in order to find a solution, as we have been over the last work year. 438.   We welcome the statement made by the President of the United States, the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament, and the media reports arising from the high offices in Norway and Switzerland on their positivity towards this engagement with the waiver. However, we only remain hopeful that those political messages will be translated into tangible engagements on the text of the waiver to find a solution the world is looking for. To reiterate, in the context of negotiations, and what the world expects, the WTO might have to continue to cut a sorry figure on any response to the pandemic or any deliverable, if we are unable to ensure that we can contribute squarely to saving human lives. We once again look forward to continuing our engagement in whatever form possible to find a solution.
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