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

H.E. Ambassador Dr. Lansana GBERIE
143.   The African Group welcomes the Ministerial Decision reached during MC12 and welcomes the document presented by the delegation of South Africa on behalf of the group of co-sponsors. It can be recalled that during MC12 the African Group consistently insisted on the importance of adopting a comprehensive Decision which comprises vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics as a holistic approach to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also well-reflected in the co-sponsors' document that access to testing tools and life-saving drugs is limited and unaffordable. 144.   It is evident that COVID-19 therapeutics such as Paxlovid are in short supply. In most developing countries and least developed countries, particularly in Africa, COVID-19 therapeutics are either unavailable or unaffordable. This situation calls for a swift extension of TRIPS flexibilities to cover COVID-19 therapeutics as a means of scaling up and diversifying their production to facilitate equitable and affordable access. 145.   Regarding diagnostics, the World Health Organization continues to insist to Members that COVID19 testing is an appropriate strategic measure to address the pandemic. Testing is critical to detect cases, new variants and to better understand the extent of infection in a certain population and leads to taking an informed and timely measure to tackle it. Nevertheless, the rate of testing in developing countries and in LDCs – particularly in Africa – remains alarming low due to shortages and unaffordable supplies of kits and testing chemicals. Testing in LDCs is almost negligible in proportion to their population, and it is merely done when a patient is severely sick – a situation which increases the risk of rapid and extensive viral spread. This situation calls for an extension of TRIPS flexibilities to cover COVID-19 diagnostics as a means of scaling up and diversifying their production to facilitate equitable and affordable access of diagnostics as well. 146.   In conclusion, the African Group concurs with the timelines proposed in the co-sponsors' room document: that discussion should commence before the summer break and be continued immediately after the break, with a view to concluding the discussions on extending TRIPS flexibilities to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics, at least by November or early December 2022.
This Council took note of statements made and agreed to revert to this matter at its next meeting.
52. The Chair recalled that on 17 June 2022, the 12th Ministerial Conference had adopted a Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement which aimed to improve the capacity of developing country Members to produce and supply COVID-19 vaccines to other eligible Members. Paragraph 8 of the Decision provided that no later than six months from the date of this Decision, Members would decide on its extension to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.
53. The Chair recalled that barely three weeks had passed since the Ministerial Conference, which was concluded on 17 June, and that some were still recovering from the intense negotiations. He did not expect that Members had had time to prepare an in-depth position on the complex question of extending this decision to additional products, such as therapeutics and diagnostics. He also recalled from the negotiations during the 12th Ministerial Conference, that one reason for postponing a decision on extension to 6 months after adoption was that certain Members did not have a mandate to consider covering diagnostics and therapeutics, and that they would need the six months for discussions in their domestic arena to obtain such a mandate. He therefore assumed that Members would need time to prepare their engagement in this regard. and what could be expected at this first consideration of the topic would be a sharing of views on how best to approach the matter going forward.
54. The representatives of South Africa; Uruguay; Pakistan; Maldives; Ukraine; Egypt; Tanzania; Bangladesh; Indonesia; Argentina; Sri Lanka; China; India; the Russian Federation; Hong Kong, China; Chile; Bolivia, Plurinational State of; Australia; Brazil; the United Kingdom; Singapore; Norway; Canada; Japan; Korea, Republic of; the European Union; Malaysia; the United States; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Thailand; Switzerland; Panama; Mexico; and Peru took the floor.
55. The Chair said he had carefully listened to Members' views on how work in the Council should proceed on this very important matter. He said he recognized, as many delegations had, that this was a ministerial decision with a tight timeline and that the matter therefore needed to be treated with urgency. He also recognized that a number of delegations needed to consult with their capitals in order to agree on a proper framework for this decision.
56. He confirmed that there was a commitment by the Council to keep this matter alive until the decision was finalized. As regards reporting to the General Council, he noted that the next meeting was scheduled for 25-26 July, which was only 20 days away, and that therefore chances were slim that the TRIPS Council would have a lot to report by that time, given also that other meetings like the WIPO Assemblies were taking place in the meantime. Against this background, he suggested that it would be the best use of time if Members themselves brought their assessment of the discussions to the attention of the General Council during the next meeting.
57. With respect to continuing discussions, which he as Chair was committed to, he said it was important for meaningful discussions to start as soon as delegations were ready to engage on the substance of this rather complex question. It was important to carefully balance the urgent need to take this decision before the deadline in December as well as the time for domestic consultations necessary for some to proceed. In designing the proper framework on how to engage in this process it was also important to ensure that discussions were open, inclusive and transparent - as had been emphasized by many delegations.
58. He said that the experience of the negotiations leading to the Ministerial Decision suggested that, in the meantime, bilateral discussions and small group discussions could be extremely helpful to work out a proper framework around which a decision could be constructed by consensus – which remained an absolute requirement with respect to decisions by the Council and by the WTO. He therefore encouraged bilateral and small group meetings in the meantime, and said that this certainly remained a very active matter, that it would be properly discussed and the decision arrived at within the timeframes set by the ministerial decision.
59. This Council took note of statements made and agreed to revert to this matter at its next meeting.
IP/C/M/105, IP/C/M/105/Add.1, IP/C/M/105/Corr.1