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

H.E. Ambassador Dr. Lansana GBERIE

202.   Accepting paragraph 8 of the Ministerial Decision of 17 June was a significant concession by our delegation, made in an effort to find a consensus on the Decision on the TRIPS Agreement and the broader MC12 package. Switzerland is ready to engage constructively in the discussion on paragraph 8 of the Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement. 203.   The work on COVID-19 vaccines entailed highly complex and technical questions. This will be even more so the case when looking at this from the angle of therapeutics and diagnostics. One reason for this is that, contrary to COVID-19 vaccines, which are single use goods, vaccines and therapeutics can serve multiple treatment purposes beyond and outside of the COVID19 pandemic.4 204.   My delegation is currently examining these and other factors internally in order to usefully prepare for this discussion. Internal procedures as well as consultations with stakeholders are under way in order for our delegation to be in a position to participate usefully in the Council discussion. It will have to be evidence- and fact-based. It is essential that we have a good understanding of the situation on the ground. This is all the more important considering that the scope of products covered by the paragraph 8 mandate is potentially very large. In relation to fact-based approaches, my delegation would like to thank the WTO Secretariat for organizing this Friday an Information Session on Innovation and Patenting Activities of COVID-19 Vaccines in WTO Members. 205.   The Council's discussion under paragraph 8 of the MC12 Decision on the TRIPS Agreement should be Member-driven, open, transparent and inclusive. To allow for a useful discussion, Members need to be given sufficient time and due advance notice to prepare accordingly for meetings. 206.   Let me recall that engaging in this discussion is without prejudice to its outcome, and to delegations' substantive positions. It is also recalled that IPRs and TRIPS have played an instrumental role for the quick development of the new COVID-19 vaccines. intellectual property rights and TRIPS worked as enablers for the hundreds of partnerships formed to scale up the manufacturing of the new vaccines to answer global demand. This applies similarly to the development and manufacturing of new COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics. Also, no convincing evidence has been submitted that would demonstrate that IP has indeed worked as a barrier to access to COVID-19 vaccines. 207.   This said, my delegation is ready, under your guidance, Chair, to constructively engage and look at the facts and evidence Members will present. We thank the proponents for their room document , made available to Members today. As a first preliminary reaction on the schedule of meetings proposed in the room document, let me repeat that consultations and the analysis of the complex technical points involved are currently under way. In order to usefully participate in the discussion, we need the necessary time to do this work. The room document seems also to assume a reporting obligation of the TRIPS Council to the General Council for the discussions under this agenda item. As an initial reaction, we note that paragraph 8 provides a time frame for discussion to decide whether or not to extend the MC12 Decision on the TRIPS Agreement to therapeutics and diagnostics. The Ministerial mandate does not foresee a mandate to submit any intermediate report to the General Council on the TRIPS Council discussions, and for this reason we see no need for the TRIPS Council to report to the July General Council meeting.

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

4 (According to Airfinity (a scientific analytics company), there are, for example, 111 COVID-19 treatments being used in 94 other infectious diseases).