Members updated on high-level talks aimed at finding convergence on IP COVID-19 response
World Trade Organisation – 10 March 2022
WTO members were updated on the high-level political consultations taking place to try to find a landing zone on the intellectual property-related aspects of a WTO COVID-19 response. At a meeting of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on 9-10 March, members agreed to keep open two related agenda items on the WTO response to allow the Council to be reconvened at short notice when and if convergence is within reach. The Council elected Ambassador Lansana Gberie (Sierra Leone) as its new chair.
Some of the members participating since December 2021 in the high-level talks – the European Union, India, South Africa and the United States – expressed cautious optimism about a possible outcome and asked for patience from the rest of the membership. These members said that the small-group discussions continue to take place in good faith, with the objective of finding a landing zone that delivers on the common purpose of ensuring equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
They stressed that any framework that emerges from this process, under the coordination of WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Deputy Director-General Anabel González, will be subject to consideration by the TRIPS Council and its full membership. They also underlined that achieving an effective outcome on this critical issue would serve the ultimate purpose of tackling the ongoing crisis as well as ensuring that the credibility of the WTO is restored.
Generally, members were supportive of the small-group consultations and encouraged those participating to regularly update the TRIPS Council. However, some members asked for greater transparency and inclusiveness in order to reach an outcome that represents the views of the whole membership. For these members, progress towards an outcome on an IP COVID-19 response cannot be expected if the TRIPS Council does not know the details of discussions that can result in taking forward discussions on the wider pandemic response.
The chair of the TRIPS Council, Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli of Norway, said that expectations and hopes remain, as the current high-level process may result in framing a platform upon which the membership at large may be able to build something that can result in a consensus-based solution. He added that all efforts should be made to keep the entire membership informed and involved in the deliberation of the items which are part of the Council’s agenda.
Members agreed to keep open in the agenda of the TRIPS Council the proposal for a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19 (IP/C/W/669/Rev.1) and the Draft General Council Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Heath in the Circumstances of a Pandemic (IP/C/W/681) so that the Council can be reconvened at short notice if substantial progress is made in the high-level talks…
Members were updated on IP measures in the context of COVID-19. The basis for the discussions was once more the compilation “COVID-19: Measures Regarding Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights“. The WTO webpage contains a non-exhaustive list of IP-related measures taken in the context of COVID-19, compiled by the Secretariat from official sources and verified by the members concerned.
At the request of members, the WTO Secretariat provided an interim update on the number of voluntary licence agreements regarding COVID-19 vaccine production over time and on the projected and observed volume of vaccine dose production under these agreements.
The Secretariat also introduced the Annual Report on Notifications and other information flows (IP/C/W/687/Rev.1), which provides analysis and trends in members’ fulfilment of the TRIPS transparency obligations, including detailed member-by-member information on notifications and other TRIPS submissions…
…To date, 134 members have accepted the TRIPS Amendment, which entered into force on 23 January 2017, securing for developing countries a legal pathway to access affordable medicines under WTO rules. The chair said that, together with the Director-General, he had sent letters to the remaining 30 members encouraging them to expedite action in good time before the current deadline for acceptance, which was extended until 31 December 2021…