Members to continue discussion on a common COVID-19 IP response up until MC12

Members to continue discussion on a common COVID-19 IP response up until MC12
World Trade Organisation
18 November 2021
At a formal meeting of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on 18 November, WTO members agreed to keep actively engaging up until the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in order to find a common intellectual property (IP) response to COVID-19. The chair of the Council, Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli of Norway, said he will make sure no stone is left unturned to explore all available options towards a consensus-based outcome at the Ministerial Conference taking place from 30 November to 3 December.

Members adopted the oral status report that will be submitted by the chair of the TRIPS Council to the General Council scheduled for 22-23 November. The text provides a factual overview of discussions held at the TRIPS Council since October 2020, both on the proposal by India and South Africa (IP/C/W/669/Rev.1) requesting a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19 and the proposal by the European Union (IP/C/W/681) for a draft General Council declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in the circumstances of a pandemic.

While the report indicates that delegations remain committed to the common goal of providing timely and secure access to high-quality, safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines and medicines for all, it also acknowledges that differences remain on significant questions.

On the waiver request proposal, the report indicates that disagreement persists on the fundamental question of whether a waiver is the appropriate and most effective way to address the shortage and inequitable distribution of, and access to, vaccines and other COVID-19-related products. On the EU proposal, the report notes that disagreement persists on the fundamental question of whether this initiative is the appropriate and most effective way to address the shortage and inequitable distribution of, and access to, vaccines and other COVID-19-related products.

This means that the TRIPS Council will remain in session beyond the General Council and potentially all the way to the Ministerial Conference. Therefore, the Council will continue to provide a forum for delegations to provide transparency on their ongoing talks and to adopt any elements or solutions they may have found so that they can be recommended to ministers before MC12 starts.

Ambassador Sørli encouraged members to remain seriously engaged, flexible and focused on an outcome, which in his view still remains within reach. The role of IP in the context of the pandemic has become the centre of attention in the run-up to MC12, and a pragmatic and tangible outcome of these discussions would be a strong and positive signal to the Ministerial Conference and the global community as a whole, he said…