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

H.E. Ambassador Dr. Lansana GBERIE

156.   According to paragraph 8 of the Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement, document WT/MIN(22)/30), which was adopted on 17 June 2022, a negotiation process should lead Members to arrive at a decision by 17 December 2022 on whether or not to extend it to therapeutics and diagnostics. We would like to emphasize that the world is experiencing an evolution of the COVID19 pandemic such that antibodies triggered by vaccination are less effective at blocking new Omicron variants and even vaccinated and boosted people are vulnerable to multiple Omicron infections. 157.   On the other hand, therapeutic options for COVID-19 recommended by the World Health Organization are either unavailable or unaffordable for developing countries. Intellectual property monopolies, especially patents, remain a major barrier to scaling up production and to facilitating equitable access. Supply constraints are expected to continue for most of 2022, even for products where voluntary licenses exist. 158.   These licenses also exclude supply to many developing countries. There are significant supply constraints due to limited manufacturers for the therapeutics recommended by WHO and for potentially new therapeutics. Diagnostics are critical for effective use of therapeutics. Testing allows for new COVID-19 variants to be identified to begin to build vaccines and therapeutics that can prevent or treat infection. Testing in developing countries and especially in LDCs remains absurdly low. 159.   In this regard, the Sri Lankan delegation would like to reiterate that the TRIPS Decision will not provide any credible solution to COVID-19 if the scope does not immediately extend to therapeutics and diagnostics. Equitable and affordable access remains a massive challenge for therapeutics and diagnostics, and we should not delay addressing these aspects. 160.   Therefore, considering the ongoing challenges and experiences shared by many countries with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sri Lankan delegation would like to reemphasize that this TRIPS Decision needs to be advanced favourably on the extension process to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics and to ensure the negotiation process shall commence as quickly as possible with a view of fulfilling this Ministerial mandate. Furthermore, Sri Lanka welcomes the latest proposal contained in document RD/IP/49 submitted today by South Africa, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt and Tanzania, and we would like to continue constructive discussion with Members in this regard.

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