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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli
12; 13 PROPOSAL FOR A WAIVER FROM CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE TRIPS AGREEMENT FOR THE PREVENTION, CONTAINMENT AND TREATMENT OF COVID-19; DRAFT GENERAL COUNCIL DECLARATION ON THE TRIPS AGREEMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF A PANDEMIC
255.   On behalf of the African Group, I would like to thank you Chair for the introduction you have provided on this agenda item. As we have repeatedly voiced in the past, once again we would like to reiterate our position. The consultation process on the proposed waiver has taken too long than was expected, and COVID19 continues to devastate the humankind. The African Group believes that the waiver could provide an enabling environment to ramp up and diversify production and distribution of COVID19 related medical products, including vaccines. This could bridge the existing inequitable access resulting from the current centralised production and distribution. Africa remains concerned that it is one of the regions with the lowest rate of COVID19 vaccination of its population compared to other regions. The main reason being inequitable supply of vaccines. Also, Africa remains one of the continents that has received less technology transfer through contracts or full inhouse production of vaccines, as has been confirmed in the presentation made by the Secretariat on agenda item 3. 256.   The proposed waiver (document ) is currently co-sponsored by 65 Members and many Members have pronounced their support to-date who hold a similar view as the African Group that the waiver is the only solution to go in order to scale up and diversify production to ensure there will be equitable access. Beyond WTO, the proposal has been endorsed globally by international organizations such as WHO, UNITAID, UNAIDS, and many more, also the civil society, trade unions, world leaders, academia, human rights experts and parliaments, including the European Parliament. However, with all the pouring support, a handful of Members are not ready to allow the process of text-based negotiations to commence. The African Group had welcomed the consultative process initiated by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the WTO which involves a few Ministers, with a view that the outcome of that process could lead to laying a framework that may lead to consensus. However, we find that the process is taking longer and therefore would like to request a full briefing to be provided to the membership so we can know the progress that has been achieved since this process was established. 257.   We also want to urge Members that the time has come where this proposal should be given serious consideration, and perhaps adopt the waiver so that it contributes to the process of combatting the pandemic that has been traveling the globe. It should be recalled that there is not one Member that will remain safe until all other Members are safe. We also have witnessed the evolution of mutants of COVID-19 virus in the past, including the Omicron that led to the postponement of MC12 in December 2021. We do not want to be in a similar situation in the near future. Therefore, we think that the full vaccination of all Members needs to be achieved within a short period so that the pandemic is eliminated. In closing, we would like to assure you Chair that the African Group stands ready for the commencement of a constructive text-based negotiation to finalise the long-overdue proposed waiver.
82. The Council so agreed.
60. Noting that most delegations had made one single statement under these two agenda items in the past, the Chair suggested that these items be once again taken up together.
61. He recalled that the "Proposal for A Waiver from Certain Provisions of The TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of COVID-19" had been originally submitted by India and South Africa; and circulated as document in October 2020. A revised proposal had been circulated by the co-sponsors in document on 21 May 2021, which is now co-sponsored by 65 delegations.
62. He further recalled that in June 2021, the European Union had submitted a communication on "Urgent Trade Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Crisis: Intellectual Property", circulated in document , which had been followed by a "Draft General Council Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in the Circumstances of a Pandemic", circulated in document .
63. The Chair recalled that at the last formal meeting on 22 February 2022, the Council had agreed to once again provide a 'Status Report on the consideration by the TRIPS Council of the waiver proposal' to the General Council meeting of 23-24 February 2022. That Status Report had provided a factual overview of the waiver discussions in this Council and had highlighted Members' common goal of providing timely and secure access to high-quality, safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines and medicines for all.
64. It had concluded that,
"[t]he TRIPS Council will therefore continue its consideration of the waiver request and report back to the General Council as stipulated in Article IX:3 of the Marrakesh Agreement.
In addition, the TRIPS Council will also continue in the same manner its consideration of the other related proposals by Members."
65. The Chair recalled that at the Council's meeting in February 2022, DDG González and a number of delegations involved had also briefly shared information on the high-level consultations concerning these items at ministerial and senior officials' level. A number of other Members had also emphasized the need for transparency and inclusiveness in any process that was intended to lead to a consensus- based outcome. The Chair encouraged delegations to provide as much information as possible on their contacts and activities in this regard.
66. The representatives of South Africa; the European Union; the Maldives; Egypt; Bangladesh; Indonesia; Malaysia; Tanzania,; Chile; Colombia; India; the Plurinational State of Bolivia; China; Brazil; Pakistan; Hong Kong, China; Sri Lanka; Australia; Nigeria; the United Kingdom; Norway; Nepal; Switzerland; Chad,; Japan; Singapore; Russian Federation; Türkiye; Namibia; the United States; Peru; and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela took the floor.
67. The Chair thanked the representatives for their interventions and said that in light of the discussion, it was his impression that Members' views on the substance remained relatively unchanged. While he had heard a number of delegations welcoming the efforts of the Director- General, he had also heard some strongly expressed concerns regarding transparency and inclusiveness. Overall, he sensed expectations and hopes among delegations that the current high- level process might result in framing a platform on which the Membership at large may be able to build a consensus-based solution.
68. Regarding the procedural way forward, noting the requests from delegations, the Chair proposed to keep these two agenda items open in order to be able to reconvene the Council at short notice.
69. Finally, the Chair urged delegations to remain fully engaged with a sense of urgency and with the objective to find a path forward towards a consensus-based outcome. Transparency and inclusiveness were central pillars of the WTO's modus operandi. All efforts should be made to keep the entire membership as much as possible informed and involved in the deliberation on items on the Council's agenda.
70. The Council took note of the statements made and agreed to keep the agenda items open with a view to resuming the meeting at short notice as appropriate in light of developments.
71. At the reconvened meeting on 6 May 2022, the Chair suggested to once again take up agenda items 12 and 13 together, as had been the case in past meetings. The Chair put on record that, at an informal meeting of the Council on 3 May 2022, he had shared with Members a briefing that he had received from the Director-General on the outcome of informal discussions among a number of Ministers that had been held without prejudice to these Members' respective positions. On the same day, he had received a communication from the Director-General, containing the text of this outcome, which was subsequently circulated to Members in document .
72. He recalled that, at an informal session immediately preceding this formal meeting, he had shared with Members his impressions from the bilateral consultations he had held, and a number of delegations had provided first informal reactions to the circulation of document . These interventions had indicated that the majority of delegations needed more time to consult on the document before they would be ready to substantively engage on the text. He indicated that he would consult further with Members after the General Council meeting on 9-10 May, before setting out a process for substantive discussions going forward.
73. The Chair then recalled that, as indicated in his communication dated 28 April 2022, in its last report to the General Council on 23-24 February 2022, the Council had concluded that it would "report back to the General Council as stipulated in Article IX:3 of the Marrakesh Agreement". In line with previous practice, he had circulated draft language for a factual and neutral reflection of the state of play, closely based on previous reports, on 3 May 2022 in document with an invitation for Members to provide comments. An agenda item for this status report had also been placed on the agenda of the General Council meeting scheduled for 9-10 May in the usual fashion. Since no comments had been received on the draft language, delegations had been informed that the Chair would propose the text as circulated for adoption.
74. As the proposed language closely mirrored previous reports, which were by now well known by all delegations, the Chair said he would simply propose that the Council formally adopt the text for the oral status report as circulated in document as a factual reflection of discussions on the TRIPS Waiver request.
75. The Council so agreed.
76. The Chair thanked delegations for their cooperation and said he would deliver this report to the General Council, on 9-10 May, as agreed. He recalled that, given the upcoming opportunities for delegations to place formal statements on the record at the General Council, he had not intended to open the floor under this agenda item, and he thanked delegations for their cooperation in this regard.
77. The representatives of China; Indonesia; Ukraine; Nigeria and the Russian Federation requested their statements from the preceding informal meeting be included in the record of the formal meeting.
78. The Chair then recalled that when the Council agreed to the 2022 meeting dates last October, the summer meeting of the TRIPS Council had been set for 8-9 June 2022. Given that the 12th Ministerial Conference had recently been rescheduled for 12-15 June, and in light of the circulation of the draft outcome text, he suggested moving the date of the Council's summer meeting to 6- 7 July 2022 to allow the Council and delegations to focus on preparations for MC12.
79. The Council so agreed.
80. In closing, the Chair encouraged delegations to prepare for the upcoming discussions on the draft outcome text with a constructive and pragmatic attitude. The fact that a number of active delegations with divergent views had invested months of hard work to come together around a common text meant that Members may now have a realistic chance to reach an agreed outcome on this long-standing issue. It would not be easy, and it was in the nature of multilateral consensus that compromises would be required on all sides. But an agreement by all Members on a pragmatic and practical outcome on the role of IP in the pandemic would send a strong signal that – despite their differences – the WTO community could come together and highlight how the multilateral rules can help address this and future crises.
81. At the reconvened meeting on 1 June 2022, the Chair indicated that the sole purpose of the meeting related to the modalities for adopting the TRIPS Council's oral status report to the General Council meeting on 7 June. He said that he would circulate the draft text for that report to delegations today and proposed that the Council adopt the text of its oral status report ad referendum. This would mean that, unless any delegation raised an objection to the draft text of the oral status report by the specified deadline, the report would be deemed to have been adopted. This would help the Council avoid holding another formal meeting before the General Council meeting the following week.
82. The Council so agreed.
IP/C/M/104/Add.1, IP/C/M/104/Rev.1, IP/C/M104