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

H.E. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli and Ambassador Dr. Lansana Gberie
319.   Thank you Chair for convening this meeting. Since this is the very first opportunity for me to speak in this Council, please allow me to extend my sincere congratulation on your appointment as the Chair of this important Council. This Council now bears the expectation of all Members to deliver concrete outcomes before MC12. We believe under your leadership we can achieve this goal. I also thank you, Chair, and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the WTO for circulating the communication as well as the document earlier this week. My capital is still studying the document. Here, I would like to make three points. And we may have technical comments in a later stage. 320.   First, China has always been a significant contributor to the global efforts in combatting the pandemic, and a staunch supporter of TRIPS waiver on COVID-19 vaccines. In May 2020, President Xi Jinping made a commitment that the COVID-19 vaccine under development and deployment in China will be made a global public good when it is ready for use. One year later, China announced its support for waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, and called upon the WTO to make an early decision on this matter. As one of the first countries hit by the pandemic, China fully understands and sympathizes with the severe challenges encountered by other developing Members and LDCs. China has made its best efforts in providing vaccines to them which is a significant contribution to the global response to the pandemic. Up to now, China has provided more than 2.2 billion doses of vaccines to over 120 countries and international organizations, and realized joint production with African countries. In addition, together with other BRICS states, we made the public health and vaccines cooperation a key area of BRICS' work this year. We have been and will continue to actively participate in the discussions here with a view to pursuing an outcome that could enhance vaccines accessibility and affordability for developing Members and LDCs. 321.   Second, we always believe that any negotiation in this organization, including the ongoing TRIPS waiver discussion, shall be guided by the principles of openness, transparency and inclusiveness. And outcomes of the negotiations shall be fair and non-discriminatory. Otherwise, it will be difficult to build consensus among Members, in particular for those who have not been involved in the process. The procedural fairness is even more relevant for the TRIPS waiver discussion which needs a proper and urgent solution as it relates to human life and livelihood. We should also avoid any hinderance to its successful outcome due to politically motivated disturbances. 322.   Third, we appreciate the efforts made by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the WTO, Ms Anabel González, Deputy Director-General of the WTO and the Quad in forming the document or text, whatever we call it. China, in general, supports to have this document as a basis for further discussions and hope it would lead to a long-awaited and urgently needed outcome, bearing in mind that Members' key concerns, including China's, should be properly addressed in this process. For China, we cannot accept the second brackets of footnote one which uses the criterion of export share to define eligible Members. Such an unreasonable and arbitrary criterion will send a wrong signal to the outside and also have systemic implication to the future negotiations. On one hand, this implies punishment to those who supplied a large amount of vaccines to others even when they themselves were suffering from shortages. On the other hand, this constitutes a tolerance or even an incentive for Members to adopt inward-looking policies and apply export restrictions in difficult times when we should resist such temptations. So my question to everyone in this room is: is it a right signal that the WTO, a long-time advocate of free trade and multilateral cooperation, should be sending to the world? Should the contributions made by Members during the pandemic be encouraged or discarded? 323.   As Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the WTO repeatedly highlighted, multilateral cooperation on trade is deadly needed to address the mounting challenges we are encountering. However, if the second brackets remains as it is, I have a serious doubt on how the long-held spirits of unity and cooperation could be preserved in this organization. Who will be willing to export critical materials to others if we are to face another pandemic in the future? And how the interest of the vulnerable economies, developing Members and LDCs, could be protected? Compared with this second brackets language, the first brackets adopt a more positive approach, i.e. to encourage developing Members who have capability to opt out from this decision. This is the right direction we should work to. However, as to what I just said on export criterion, we believe a more general language to encourage developing Members who are in the position to opt out can be a solution. I know many of you are looking at China who is one of the leading producers and exporters of COVID-19 vaccines. In spite of the great difficult situation China is in, I can assure you that China's determination to make further contribution to the global pandemic response remains unchanged. Based on our proposed footnote and in line with assessment of our capability, we are willing to address the eligibility issue in a pragmatic and constructive manner, so that an outcome that benefits developing Members and LDCs in genuine needs could be reached at an earliest date. We look forward to the same level of pragmatism and constructiveness from other major stakeholders to meet us halfway. Let me conclude by reiterating our firm commitment to supporting your work, and our strong willingness to work tirelessly with all Members to go through the dark tunnel and find the light before Ministers land at Geneva.
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